Colombian Trip Testimony
This was my first major mission trip, as well as my first international trip. I didn’t even have a passport before this, so it was huge. What’s kind of interesting is that it was so huge for me that God could make it that much huger, if I’m allowed to use that word.
I’ve not been one to see the Holy Spirit work big things, or even see attacks from Satan, I guess you could say I’ve been happily oblivious to the spiritual world most of my life. That all changed on this trip. That was the biggest thing for me, recognizing that attacks happen, and that the Holy Spirit moves. And when the Holy Spirit moves, just stop what you are doing and follow. There is no sense in trying to ignore.
Jeff had us praying and getting together prayer partners before our trips because he felt that this was going to be an amazing trip, and that coupled with the number of people we had going out for missions as a church, he believed we all had a high possibility of being under spiritual attack. I thought that it was a good idea to pray, but not necessarily for protection from the evil one. Yeah, I know, Jesus had that in His prayer, so I really shouldn’t be above it. I just wasn’t educated.
First for me came the Jeep. about a week and a half before the trip, it wouldn’t start. We had it towed to my mechanic, who replaced the starter. I picked it up Wednesday morning, drove it to the train station, then home, then to band practice at church. Then it wouldn’t start again. Less than 24 hours after taking it in, it was broken again. I waited until the weekend to take it to the mechanic, so we were now T-1 week until we left for Colombia. I wanted to focus on the trip at this point. Plan out my packing and such, but I had a Jeep to fix now.
The mechanic called me with the news that it was the safety sensor in the transmission that wasn’t allowing power to go to the starter. Well, for a normal Jeep with a 4 speed transmission, this part cost $30. Before I could say “well fix the darned thing”, he said the part for my Jeep’s 5 speed transmission was $470. I was on the fence for about 1 second, then realized I can’t pay that after all I’ve recently dumped into it to keep it running. It just broke the limit I had in my mind for what I could fix. He said he had never seen a disparity like that before between parts, and couldn’t find anything on the secondary market for cheaper after a hour of calls. I knew this was it.
I had to decide what to do with the Jeep with only a week to go until Colombia. I didn’t have the mental resources to deal with this, getting my work group onto firm footing for a week of my absence, and getting my wife and kids off to grandma’s house. I was being taxed and didn’t really want something else on my plate. Luckily, the mechanic shop’s owner’s son wanted it to work on in his mechanical engineering shop class, to basically take the whole thing apart and rebuild it.
When I went to the mechanic to sell it, he was having a conversation with a customer about putting a lift kit. The customer was going to install on the weekend, and was curious if he could come in Sunday to get some help. The mechanic said that they weren’t open on Sunday’s. What hit me at this point isn’t that the place isn’t open on Sunday’s, but it was that the owner had a tone to his voice that said “this is not for negotiation, we will never be open on Sunday’s”, yet nicely. I realized then and there that the owner had copies of Dallas Christian Living in his new rack for a reason, and that my Jeep was where it was supposed to be. This answered my prayers to get the Jeep where it needed to go, and to get my mind cleared for the trip.
Then came the morning of the trip. I went to the Deitz’s house to carpool to the airport. Kim couldn’t find her medication that she needed, yet found them eventually right where she was looking after a quick prayer. I thought that very interesting that this was the morning of the trip, and she couldn’t see them right there, as if a veil was over her eyes the whole time. A quick prayer cleared that up, and we were off, but we were late.
At this point, I was starting to believe in spiritual attacks, given the Jeep, Kim’s medicine, and a few other crazy things that happened at work. I decided the quick prayer was the way to go. I prayed to God to deflect any other attacks, that we needed to get to Colombia safe and sound to do His will. I really thought that was the best thing to pray for.
When we got to the airport and started bringing the baggage in, we heard yelling from somebody about stopping. It was blood curdling, and we all jumped. Some went on while some stayed to help. We found out that a guy had gotten pinned between two shuttle buses right next to us, crushing his leg. So, deflecting was the “best” I could pray, huh? I prayed again, silently, for God to bind Satan. Deflection seemed like a bad idea at that point. Luckily, we did see the guy wheelchair right past us, leg all bandaged, ready to still get on his flight. I think God did the binding, and we were good to go, because the rest of the trip had none of the hiccups that we had heard about during our meetings.
Now, this is a good time to invoke the writings of CS Lewis, my favorite author ever. I had just finished the Screwtape Letters, and this fits in perfectly right here. Screwtape told Wormwood at one point that he could make his patient realize the spiritual world only if he was the type of person that recognized that demons exist only to be unhealthily obsessed with them. I took that line to heart weeks before I even witnessed the attacks we were under for the trip. I’m glad I’m the other type of person now, the type that sees the demonic world for what it is, pure evil, to be cast away, and that my focus should be on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ instead. Thank you CS, and thanks be to God for what I saw. But that wasn’t it.
I had never met Renee before, but I got the chance this trip. She’s the pastor’s daughter, and is a teacher. The first day, we went to a town square next to the slums, and the children came over from those slums to get a meal package. We worked on the craft with these children for about 30 to 45 minutes before heading over to the bus. Steve had parked it a few blocks away, so we had to walk a little bit to get there, but they picked us up and took us to Luz Y Vida, the school that is run by Formando Vidas. When we got to the school, I learned something else about Renee – she has really really really bad asthma. She had an asthma attack on the way to the school and had to use a special machine to take butterol (I think) to stop the attack. This works well to control a severe attack, but the side effects are uncontrollable convulsions, leaving Renee to needing help to eat and drink.
Steve prompted us to pray over Renee to keep the evil one from using this against us. After a long prayer of asking the Holy Spirit to come down upon her and that Satan be binded from further attack,, we all went to the Jungle for about 2 hours to assess what we could do. During that time, Renee rested a bit, which is probably what she needed. Then, we all got to go to the Farm to see the kids that were staying out there, as well as some more people from the ministry.
The farm was a beautiful place up on top of a mountain, overlooking all the rich bankers from Bogota. I’m sure that they love having the streetkids looking down on them. This is where you could see the Holy Spirit take over in Renee. Steve offered to have us all walk up the mountain with him a bit to see the sights while waiting on lunch to be ready. Renee took this offer up with fervor, even against the protest of Mike. This girl who had just had a sever asthma attack was now walking up a mountain around 10,000 ft. The air is thinner up there, and I’m sure that doesn’t go well with asthma, but she did it. We helped Steve clean out a spring, and she got some water from it, we found natural blackberries, and we walked all over. I’m not sure that could have happened without the power of the Holy Spirit, something I have never seen happen before, which strengthens my faith so much more.
Steve is a remarkable guy. Words will not really do this man justice. What I found amazing about being with him is really just a accumulation of the entire time I spent with him. After the whole trip, I was left with a sense that this man was truly anointed with the Holy Spirit to do what he is doing, and you could see that in the way he moved, talked, even the way he breathed. It appeared as if every single movement of his body, every single step of his foot, every word from his mouth, and every breath that filled his lungs were not only there to praise the Lord, but were also commanded by the Lord. It seemed as if the Holy Spirit is what was flowing through his veins rather than blood. It’s hard to explain, but it is truly humbling, and made me realize that my comfortable little world of Sundays doesn’t cut it, that pure obedience is what is called for, and it’s the only way to truly glorify God in all I do, much the way Steve does. Every breath, every word, every motion, all glorifying Him who made us and loves us.
We always talk about how God is omnipresent, everywhere at once, and all knowing. With these being true, then He knows what is going on in the Bronx, He sees it, but He chooses to let it remain for some reason. This place is a true stronghold of Satan, a place of pure lawelessness where people will sell their children into prostitution for a cup of soup. We drove by and saw this place, and you could see the heaps of trash that the people were sifting through for whatever could be recycled, the money from which would buy the next round of drugs. The moment I saw a baby stroller go by, I almost cried. I know several people did in the bus. It was the most horrifying thing I had ever scene.
I would say it is the most horrifying, even after seeing the footprint of the twin towers in New York for this reason – you could sense the absence of God’s glory. This feeling was physical, it was a pain that you could feel, just by being nearby. You could hear the caller with his whistle blowing, notifying the people in the Bronx that we were passing by. At least, I’m sure that’s what he was signaling since that was the only call we heard.
Steve is praying for access to this place, to start meeting people, and to start sharing the salvation of Christ. He’ll do it, I know, for Steve has the Holy Spirit in his veins, but he can’t seem to get a safe foothold. People who he has talked to can’t guarantee safety because a person strung out on drugs might go crazy and attack them, and nobody can do anything about it. I’ve never scene a place devoid of God’s grace, so this was a learning experience for me.
The Rehab Place
On my second day there, we visited a rehab unit that was in a not so great area. I’m pretty sure some guy tried to pick pocket me right before Carlos told me not to look at anybody, but I didn’t have anything on me, so that was his loss. Anyway, we got there, finally got in, and met the kids there. That was part of what blew me away, they were kids. These kids were in the 11 – 16 year range (I could be way off on the lower number). They were not just some high school dropouts who did a few drugs, they were young kids who were addicted to multiple hardcore drugs. It wasn’t just marijuana, but hardcore stuff. Some of them had black spots between their knuckles where they would shoot up various things. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. These children had started with marijuana at a young age and just progressed through to really hardcore stuff. I reasoned that my 4 year old should be smoking his first joint any day now to rival the path these boys took.
There was one boy who didn’t get to do the craft with us because he had just come in the night before and was still going through his detox. He did come down as we were leaving, and I got to see him in passing. I’ve never tried drugs before, and this sealed the deal for me, I’m never going down that path. The poor kid was shaking uncontrollably and you could tell he was miserable. I felt for him, but knew there was nothing I could do. The boy had to be in his early teens from what I could tell. This was heartbreaking.
I had never known Scott existed before this trip. I don’t believe I had ever seen him ever before, even though I attended church almost every week. Boy, I didn’t know what I was missing. Meeting Scott, seeing his reaction when he witnessed to the boys in rehab (and how the boys reacted), and seeing him plastering that wall, you knew he was here to do God’s work, right where God had placed him for this moment in his life. Seeing him and how his life fit into the trip like a Lego piece, I have come to believe in a destiny with God, that he is orchestrating everything. There are not coincidences, there are the hands of God.
The Return Home
When I got home, I was still processing all that I saw. My heart was still in the process of breaking, and I was still trying to make sense of what I had seen. I could list it out:
● Met people in the church that I never knew existed and made great friendships
● Saw the Holy Spirit moving in people
● Witnessed spiritual attacks on people, such as Rudy, Renee, Olivia, and Zach, and then witnessed those attacks being rebuked and halted in the name of Christ
● Seeing the sun stand still so that so much could be completed in a short number of days
After seeing all this and more, I had no idea what to do. I felt a little empty (probably because I had no more painting to do) and kind of yearned to go back. It felt like I had been through this huge ordeal with all these people and it had changed us all together, and I wanted to go back to that point that we all changed to experience it all again. I started thinking that I should get into ministry, work with children with Formando Vidas, or some other mission somewhere else. I just wasn’t sure, but I was ready and willing if God would have given me the calling. I was pretty broken for children by this point, and my heart was still breaking as I continued to process what I had just experienced.
After my family got back from Oklahoma City, we were all getting ready for bed. Courtney asked Mikey if he wanted to put on his wildlife pajamas, and he beamed and said yes. He goes and gets them on and runs back in to show them off since they were new from the grandparents. When he came back, I almost cried (Courtney didn’t catch it, I’m good at hiding it like a man) because on this shirt was a big picture of an elephant which, to me, looked almost exactly like the one we painted on the wall in the Jungle, and it all became real clear. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere as a full time missionary as I wanted to do, but I was to stay here. I’m supposed to spend the time and energy that God has given me on my family so that together, we can all radiate the love and blessings that God has given us. I’ll still be going on mission trips every year, and maybe the future has full time mission work for me, but for now, I have to raise Maya and Michael as disciples of Christ so that they can go out and make disciples of all nations as well.