Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Sitting in a van on separate benches driving down the palm tree laden streets of Barranquilla on our way to our hotel, Joel and I had the same reaction as we saw the city stretched out before us...... this is it! When we hopped out of the van we looked at each other with a sparkle in our eyes and a wide smile on both our faces.
Our first impression of Barranquilla is that it is a beautiful city with stunning people. The entire city is booming with construction. People live in either high-rise apartments or gated homes. Businesses are everywhere and expanding as far as the eye can see.
We met Luis Carlos and Maribell shortly after arriving. We were greeted with loving smiles, hugs and joking....lots of joking already. We knew we would get along just fine!
The plan for our trip was two-fold: to get to know Luis Carlos and Maribell, and to get a feel for the city we will soon call "home". Luis Carlos and Maribell are going to be our church planting partners in the city as well as our direct bosses in Colombia. So far, the connection to both the people and location was immediate, and Joel and I were so grateful to God for this. He knew our fears, our reservations, yet all the while reassuring us to step forward in obedience and in faith. Stepping into the unknown can be daunting. When we arrived we were thrilled to feel God's peace fill us to overflowing.
There were several cool things that happened on the trip. Luis Carlos asked us to explain to him what we felt God calling the church to be in Barranquilla. We had plenty of time, so we took a few days to pray and really be sure of what we had already been sensing. In one word: community. 7 days a week of community. We envision a community where people can walk in and feel comfortable to ask questions and learn about a relationship with God. We see this happening in several ways: English classes, business courses, parties, gatherings... but also Bible studies and worship time. It would purposely not be a church. It would be a neutral place where people can be a part of a community. As Joel started to explain this to Maribell and Luis Carlos while we ate lunch a few days into our trip, we saw her smiling and him getting emotional. Maribell tells us that they have been praying for God to send them a couple with the same vision for the past 1 1/2 years. Luis Carlos explains that he has been wrestling with what the "church" is, in the way God intended it. He says, "you have been calling it a community center, I have been calling the same thing la casa (the house)." We all sat in awe of what God had already orchestrated. What a joy to know that His plan is coming together and we get to be a part of it!
Another fun thing is involving food. Two of our three daughters and myself are gluten intolerant. This makes travel difficult sometimes and we have resigned ourselves to not eating various things because of it. Well, imagine our amazement that Colombians use corn flour for almost all of their salty treats!
This is one of the street vendors where we stopped to eat and try their fried goods with an array of sauces to put on top. Taylor also has a reaction to food dyes, so we were thrilled when we found almost all the juices and granizados (like frozen ice) drinks are made with real fruit!
Praise God for the confirmations he gave us during and after the trip! Thank you for your prayers and care for us. God is so good.
A few other important things happened on the trip:
-Joel and I were able to experience a lot of our firsts with our pastor, Steve. It solidified a relationship with him and connected us in a very special way.
-We visited schools to see what our options are for the girls. Continue to pray for us as we are still seeking out the right place for them.
-We had the privilege of meeting and getting to know our Ministry Area Leader, Craig and his wife Sue. They were so helpful in explaining culture, Spanish, and were an excellent resource for what missionary life involves. We were so grateful for their care and desire to see us start well.
-We were involved in the Bible study (see below) that meets on Sunday mornings. It was wonderful to meet people we've already been praying for. Very welcoming and kind people. It was exciting to see them learning God's word and asking and answering questions. Continue to pray that God would strengthen this group as they learn, and that they would invite their neighbors and friends.