Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a Men's Retreat in the Historic town of Villa de Leyva about 4 hours north of Bogota in the mountains. The town was where the King of Spain's representatives (Viceroy etc) had their country residences. It is an interesting town as the valleys all around are fertile and produce great crops, but the valley in which Villa de Leyva is located is arid, with cacti and other desert type plants growing. It is an interesting town for all the fossils that are to be found, no doubt laid down in the flood associated with Noah.
The Men's Retreat was for mainly Elders and Deacons but this year wives and other interested men were invited as the purpose was to do a 20 hour seminar on the use of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible and at the end the members in attendance received a donated Bible. The Thompson Bible is a good resource for many of those involved in church leadership. I was asked to do three papers on "The Leader and His Family." It was a great opportunity to have an input into the lives of the 140 from Brethren churches in Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Duitama and Yopal.
The town of Villa de Leyva.
It has the largest open plaza in Colombia - all in cobble stones.
Fossil in cobble stone.
Even walking along the cobble-stoned streets fossils can be seen in the rocks.
The entrance to the campsite 2 kms. out in the country.
The main buildings at Villa Peniel
Villa Peniel courtyard
All the rooms - dormitories, dining room, conference rooms surround the inner courtyard.
Men from Cazuca Church
The Cazuca church is located in the very south of Bogota. It is the result of the vision of Sergio Gomez (the tallest man in middle of group) who had the vision and dedication to go to a very poor barrio (suburb) to start a church.
Men from Villa de Leyva Church
After resisting the gospel for many years a church was started about 10 years ago in this historic town.
Seminar in progress
The people in the photo are busy completing some "homework" part of the requirements for receiving the donated Bible.
Tinto in the courtyard
Tinto is the customary drink in Colombia. It is black coffee with plenty of sugar served in a small cup.
Breakfast in Ubate
Along the way going to the retreat we stopped at the local market in the town of Ubate for breakfast. Mine consisted of caldo de papa (potato soup) with a chuck of meat. Others had filled arepas (corn cakes with an egg in the middle) tamales (corn meal with everything in it such meat and vegetables and cooked in a banana leaf).
Bucaramanga a city of 2 million that was home to us for 10 years in the 1970s and 80s. The city is built on a meseta (tableland) at about 3,500 feet above sea level and there is limited room for expansion, apart from building on ridges and valleys. This is what is taking place, but also old buildings are coming down and new highrise buildings are being constructed. The impression on flying into the city is of the city growing upwards rather than outwards. On being in the city the streets are congested with traffic and the downtown area is congested with pedestrians. I was alone in my return to Bucaramanga but it was good seeing old friends and being encouraged by the growth of the church in Colombia.
Bucaramanga - a city set on a hill!
Bucaramanga - the city of parks
Highrise buildings going up!
The extended Pinzon family with whom we worked in the 1980s
Carlos Alberto and Martha Pinzon and family, my hosts in Bucaramanga. Carlos was my constant companion in the early 1980s. How good to see him as a leader in the church today.
Santa Maria Assembly in Bucaramanga.
Ground (1st) floor is the hall for meetings, 2nd floor is the apartment that Carlos Alberto and Martha occupy, the 3rd floor is where I stayed and on top (4th floor) is the patio which is used for meals.
Some of the Santa Maria congregation on Sunday morning.
Young people at Santa Maria. What potential for God!
Plenty of kids.
How great to see them growing up in Christian families under the influence of the gospel to avoid the pitfalls of life that their parents or grandparents experienced.
Eliseo Caicedo and his family, one of the very first families in the main Bucaramanga Assembly in the mid 1970s.
Barranquilla is the port city of Colombia and traditionally has been a very important commercial center. In the past much of Colombia's industry was located in Barranquilla. It is a very hot city.
Brethren missionaries established a work in Barranquilla in the early 1970s. That initial work has grown and today there are several churches in the city and in outlying towns such as Galapa, Malambo and Caracoli. The Colombians who have worked there have done a great job of evangelizing and planting new churches.
First Brethren Assembly in Barranquilla, on Carrera 22.
Rafael and Saul Sanchez
Two of the first men in the church (brothers) and still very active
Willie and Marta Leal. Saved as kids in the 1970s.
In the mid 1970s camps and conferences were initiated in a big old rambling house in the town of Galapa just to the west of Barranquilla. The house was then called the Casa Blanca (White House) and then renamed the Casa Grande (Big House.) It is owned and administered by the Baptists and today with its additional dormitories, dining room and outside Kiosk can house up to 500 people at a time. What great memories we have of people being saved, taught the Bible and young people being channeled into Christian Service at the Casa Grande.
Beautiful old tree in the grounds of the Casa Grande
Some time in the late 1970s the Brethren missionaries In Barranquilla purchased a farm to use as a Camp site on the main road just before entering the town of Galapa. The Finca Emmaus still holds regular camps and conferences and the work of building into lives of people continues. I will be sharing at an Elders and Workers Retreat at the Finca (farm) the first weekend of July. What memories we have of great times at the Finca Emmaus of teaching the Colombian believers, and also of times when there was no water in the well and we had to return to the Casa Grande for showers ... and our diet seemed consist of Ñame (pronounced Nyamy) a common root crop on the coast.
Main building at Finca Emmaus
Additional buildings at Finca Emmaus
Main plaza of Galapa
Transport on main street Galapa
Home of Saul and Zully Sanchez, my hosts in Galapa
Saul & Zully Sanchez
Transport on the main street of Caracoli, where Saul is working to establish a new church.
Cartagena is located on the beautiful Caribbean Coast of Colombia to the west of Barranquilla. It has some spectacular beaches making it a tourist center. It also has a very interesting past. The Spanish Conquerors established a base there and gold was collected in the continent and held in the fortress El Castillo de San Felipe (St Phillip Castle) before being shipped along the Spanish main to Spain. The old walled city makes for some interesting excursions. History is heard from a different viewpoint in Cartagena. We grew up hearing about the English hero Sir Francis Drake, but he is considered a villain in Colombia having attacked ships along the Spanish main.
Looking down on Cartagena from La Popa.
Beach at Boca Grande
Entrance to the old walled city of Cartagena
Roadside fruit stall just outside Cartagena.
I was hosted by Carlos and Elsie Nobmann who live where the rest of the population live on the other side of the city.
Carlos and Elsie Nobmann. Old friends from the 1970s.
Church where Carlos and Elsie have ministered for many years.
I had the privilege of preaching there two nights running. The previous visit to the congregation was in 1984 when they were in another building.
Bogotá is experiencing one of its rainiest seasons ever. There is flooding in many parts of the country and a lot of rural people are affected with flooding. Bogotá is a nice city when the sun comes out!
Bill and Angela's apartment is located on the fifth floor of this block of apartments. There is no elevator.
There was great celebration when Cedric Thomas arrived home after a few days in the NICU.
The Andes Mountains look majestic on a clear day. This is the view from the 5th floor apartment above the other buildings.
One of the main streets of Fusagasuga
A visit was made to the city of Fusagasuga for a meeting with prisoners in the local jail and a meeting in the evening. Fusagasuga is a two hour drive south of Bogotá through some rugged mountains. With so much rain there were a lot of potholes and landslides on the road. The region is known for its poultry and pig farms to supply the Bogotá market. You could certainly tell it was that sort of enterprise by the smells! Fusagasuga is 3,000 feet lower than Bogotá with a population of 100,000. It was interesting visiting several homes and to meet some of the local people.
Evening meeting in a home in Fusagasuga. It's great to see people with an interest in hearing the gospel message,