It’s been awhile…

It’s been awhile…

Hello friends, family, and supporters!  We know it has been awhile since we have blogged and gave a proper update (Sorry!), but here we are now and boy do we have a lot of updates!  I think the last time we left off, we had just hosted a mission team from Winchester, TN.  Well, that was just shy of a year ago!  We have since then moved to a smaller town, about an hour southeast of Medellín, Colombia.  It is actually where Medellín’s international airport is located.  We moved here to explore starting a group which will hopefully turn into a future church!  We have really enjoyed the change of pace of Rionegro.  It is significantly smaller than the big city, and so things are more calm and slower.  Both of our girls have adjusted to attending preschool, and they seem to really enjoy their environment, as well.  We live three doors down from some close friends from the denomination, the Alfonso Daza Family.  They have been very helpful in making us feel more like we have community and family here, and they have also have been extremely instrumental in starting a group.

We have had a consistent group meeting weekly in our home since October 2018.  We average about 20-25 people each week.  We have been meeting on Sunday morning for a very relaxed service of music, played by a teenager that lives in front of us and either Sarah  or Johanna (daughter and mom of said family) leading us in song.  That is then followed by a Bible study (in Spanish).  After church, we enjoy lunch together prepared by the women of the church. It has been a great experience, and we look forward to continuing to grow with this wonderful group of people!  We also have started an English Bible study on Tuesday’s.  This is in it’s infancy, we have only met twice so far.  This group is so far comprised of people in our group on Sunday, our Spanish teacher, and hopefully more neighbors from our community that are English learners that want to practice speaking.  We are excited what relationships this meeting will build! 

We have continued with learning Spanish in a university down the road from us that has an international language program.  It has been great for us to continue to study!  We have a long way to go, but we can tell we have made progress! Bella continues to amaze us with her level of Spanish.  In fact, she sometimes sounds Colombian when she speaks English! Ha! She already corrects us if we say something wrong in Spanish! Jacqueline is speaking more English since our visit to TN for Christmas.  It is clear she understands both Spanish and English, and she speaks some words in Spanish.  But currently she primarily responds in English.  Like I mentioned, we were blessed to be able to visit our families in December for a month.  It was great to see our friends and family!  Patrick was also able to spend a lot of time with his father, whom had an open heart surgery and a colon surgery while we were home. 

We have been back since January, and we have gotten back in the swing of things.  The work in the Presbytery has been continuing, which is one of our main purposes here.  Patrick feels more confident in his Spanish, which makes him feel more effective.  He was recently elected as Moderator for the Presbytery.  In a couple of short weeks we are going to have two mission groups from TN.  The first group is from Nashville, Tusculum CPC led by Brittany Spradling.  Then landing the same day this group leaves, we are welcoming our Alma Mater, Beaver Creek CPC, led by Reverend Billy Price.  We are excited for both of these groups to do work in our Emaús Presbytery!  We will give updates of these experiences for these groups in the near future!

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Patrick at the Guerrero Truque Family’s Commissioning Service

Also, the program I am coordinating, “No Estás Sola – A Community for Women,” was awarded the Women’s Ministry Convention Offering for 2019!  This is very exciting news, and will allow for us to expand the program from only one church to being offered to all of the churches in the Medellín metro area!  We have expanded the program to go beyond single mother’s.  The hope of our program is to help educate and empower women to own their own businesses, to alleviate poverty and open up a positive future for women and their families. 

In short, things have been busy but awesome here in Colombia!  We miss our family and friends in the US, but we also feel very at home here.  We continue to be thankful for the blessings and financial support we receive from everyone, and we pray that we can do more Work for the Kingdom. 

Dios te bendiga (God bless you),

Jessica Wilkerson and family

 

Hands and Feet of Jesus… Hosting a Mission Team Was Awesome!!!

My family and I were honored to host a mission team of 20 people a couple weeks ago from Winchester, TN. The group was made up of high school seniors from Winchester CPC, some of their parents, their youth minister, and the youth minister and his wife from Tusculum CPC. How we were blessed by this experience in so many ways.

The group came and worked very hard sharing with some of our communities the love of God. Their first full day they went to the El Central church downtown and had dinner with some people from the community, some church members, and gave groceries and supplies for each family to take home with them.

La Central2

Sunday was a big day. The group split into 5 groups and went to 5 of our different churches in the Emaús Presbytery. They worshiped at Caldas, Envigado, San Javier, La Rosa, and Zamora churches. Each group gave a word of encouragement and said hello.  One of the young men preached at Zamora.  After worship every church was gracious enough to provide lunch for the small teams.

The groups then traveled back to the Finca, the small farm in the mountains where we stayed, in Amagá. That evening we had a youth event where some students from all of the churches came. We hung out, listened to music, danced, swam, and had a typical Colombian cookout. In the evening the pastor from Zamora led some activities and gave a devotion. The youth stayed until after lunch on Monday, so we were lucky to hangout the next day.  We continued our fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ and building relationships that are so important for our church.

youth in Colombia

Monday, while most of us stayed at the finca and continued with the youth, some went to our church in town and started helping with the church’s ongoing construction project. These men worked very hard, side by side with the Colombians. For many in the group, their highlight was building a relationship with the foreman we called “El Jefe”. He often attends our church in Caldas. They were able to go up the road to have coffee with El Jefe and learn about each other’s families and lives. Many times just using the Google voice translator on their phones. El Jefe made sure to buy them all a bag of coffee before they left the last day to show his appreciation.

In the afternoon on Monday, the group gathered together again to do food distribution. With music in the background, we put together bags full of groceries, soap, toilet paper, and even fresh eggs. We prayed over 30 bags for 30 families in the community. After our prayer, we divided up into two groups and ventured about the city of Amagá on foot to distribute the food, and we invited the families to our activities scheduled for the rest of the week. For many, this was the most powerful experience because they had the opportunity to enter homes, talk with the people, and pray for them. Truly, they were the hands and feet of God that evening as they bravely worked and shared the loved of God, while meeting the needs of the people.

Tuesday, the construction crew continued in the morning with the work with El Jefe, while the rest of the team started preparing and painting the inside and outside of the church. That afternoon, the group split into two groups again. The women put on an event for the women in the community. One of the students gave a fantastic devotion explaining Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Since they wanted the women to know how important they are and how valued they are, the group continued in the worship by washing their feet. They also painted nails, fellowshipped, and provided some snacks that the women like but don’t get very often because of the cost. They were very successful in making the women in Amagá feel valued and special!

I personally will never forget how the group even included my 3-year-old daughter, Bella. As a dad, I will never forget seeing her sitting patiently for her turn as the team made their way to her and washed her feet. Thank you!

The rest of the team walked across town to the community soccer field. Here they got to see Timoteos in action. Timoteos (Timothy) is a ministry out of the church that provides the youth of Amagá with the opportunity to train and play soccer in a league.  The head coach is a ministerial candidate that works very hard to help these players grow in skill, ability, and knowledge not only with soccer but with God as well. Right now they have between 150-200 participants. While the team was here another student gave a great devotion. Some of the team trained and did drills with the players.  Others in the group got out footballs and showed them a little about what we call football (not to be mistaken with fútbol). One thing is for sure; I don’t think the people who played with the laughing and smiling children will ever forget the time they were in South America playing soccer in the rain on the side of a mountain. God truly is good and blesses us with wonderful memories.

Wednesday was our last day of work. After breakfast we continued our projects. El Jefe had his workers, and the rest of us continued painting.  About mid-morning a truck came that had between 850-900 cinderblocks. The team was not intimidated. We turned up the music, put on gloves, started an assembly line, and got to work unloading the truck and moving the blocks to the back where they were stacked on the construction site.

In the afternoon, the team prepared and facilitated a day of VBS for the children of Amagá. The church was packed with over 65 kids. Some were even siting outside doing the activities on the sidewalks around the church. It was amazing to see all the joy going on and how God was using the team. Not everyone always had a translator with them, but they were still able to communicate and pour their gifts and love all over the community. Amazing!

In the evening, we had worship with the church where we invited some of the people we had seen in the community to come. When worship started, I was outside sitting across the street watching as all the doors and windows to the church were opened. There was no more room in the church, so people were standing outside looking over shoulders worshiping God from the street. It was an incredible sight.

One of the men on the team was with me and said, “You know, at home we sit in church and talk about this or talk about that. We argue over the building or worship… silly stuff. And these people don’t even fit in the church and are happily standing outside looking through a window. I’ll never forget this!”

When I think about this mission team, I think of two scriptures.

  1. 1 Peter 4:10-11 – God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
  2. Galatians 6:9-10 – So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

This team was made up of so many different people with different gifts, and they all came together to serve God in major ways. Some planned things before they got here, some spoke to groups, some worked hard in the hot sun with El Jefe, some loved on the pastor and members of the church, some brought laughter, some played with children, some washed feet, some painted, and all did for the glory of God!

The second scripture talks about doing good for people whenever we can. Not only did these people give up vacation time and spring break, but they traveled really far from home to show the churches in Emaús Presbytery that they are part of our Cumberland Presbyterian family. In return, God poured blessing out in every direction. I still am getting messages from some of the church members talking about the experience!

Thank you Winchester CPC and Tusculum CPC for supporting this team and sending them to serve in Colombia, South America!

What more can we say but that we are ready for the rest of you to put together mission teams to come and serve with us in Colombia. Remember, the size of group doesn’t matter and we will customize the trip to fit the gifts of your group. Calling all churches, groups, men, women, youth, and young adults… this is your invitation to come and serve!!! We are waiting!!!

A Time of Thanksgiving

Psalm 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his court with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

In a world that is crazy with so many horrible things that go on, we are reminded by scripture to take a step back and give thanks to the Lord for the blessings that we have.  We have a lot to be thankful for recently. We are slowly but surely getting a handle on this whole Spanish language thing. We completed 8 weeks of intensive Spanish classes, and we plan on continuing with a tutor. Of course we will continue to practice with neighbors and friends. We are continuing to build relationships with new friends. The girls continue to love school, and Bella is learning Spanish faster than I could have ever imagined. Bella and Jacqueline are going to be “Paisa” before it is all said and done (that is what you call someone from the province of Antioquia in Colombia, which is where Medellin is located).

At the end of September, we got to celebrate Bella’s third birthday with all of our new friends here in Colombia at the zoo. She had a great time! We were very excited that Paul, Patrick’s father, was able to be here for Bella’s birthday, and Patrick’s birthday a week later! On Patrick’s birthday our friend B.J. Mathis landed to spend time with us and to complete a preview trip for his senior high youth group’s mission trip in March. He and Patrick were able to make plans and collaborate with the Emaús Presbytery about future possibilities for his group. During this time, we bid farewell to Paul and welcomed two other friends. My childhood friend, Erin Hammond and our friend from our beloved Beaver Creek CPC, Rachel Shanton came to spend time with us. It was a whirlwind of a time but it was so much fun! We were very happy to see them and be able to show them around the city.

Patrick has had the honor of serving communion (Santa Cena in Spanish) at a couple of the mission points, in Spanish of course! He also was able to baptize five people and help accept twelve new church members for a total of seventeen new church members at the mission point called San Javier. God is doing some really cool things here in Colombia, and we are just so thankful to be a witness to it!

We also gained a new family member since our last update! We adopted a puppy named Lucy. She came from our friends’ neighborhood in a city close by, and she needed a home to call her own. We all fell in love immediately! She has been a great addition, and the girls have a lot of fun with her. Honestly, almost everyone in Colombia has a pet so we had to have one to socially fit in…that’s what I told Patrick anyways. He was a little resistant at first, but now he is the one that loves her the most!

We recently were able to spend a little family time in Cartagena at the beach to celebrate Thanksgiving. However, both of our girls got sick at different points in the trip, and we only had one full day of total health! But we made the most of it, and we got to visit the Old City. What a beautiful city with an amazing history!

Things we have coming up, are that Patrick is visiting a mission point called Istmina on the Pacific Coast with other pastors to help deliver Christmas gifts to the children. Please pray for their safety, because this province is not very safe. I invite you to pray for this community in general. It is very poor and they face many challenges from a war conflicted past and their only access to water is rainwater. We are also looking forward to having my parents in a couple of weeks for the Christmas season. They get to stay for three full weeks! We are very thankful for our time here in Colombia and all of those many individuals and churches that make it possible for us to be here. We covet your continued prayers and we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Blessings,

Jessica Wilkerson

Thank you, Thank you, and Gracias!

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I know that we haven’t updated everyone since we arrived in Colombia, but as you can imagine it has been a little hectic. So let me start by saying that we have been here for just over two months and things are going well! We really want to thank everyone who has supported us and continue to support us financially, with prayers, and notes, emails, or calls of encouragement.

 

We can’t say enough to thank the pastors and their families here in Medellin. They took us under their care and protection right away. We are so grateful that for the better part of two months we were called or a message was sent to us asking what we need to do or asking how they can help us get more settled. I have moved around my whole life. My father’s job moved my family all around the USA most of my childhood. I am no stranger to transition, but I have learned that moving to another country is a completely different ballgame. Specifically in Colombia, there is a process for everything and part of our transition is learning all the processes so that we can complete a task. I have a pastor friend here that laughs and tells me, “aca en Colombia, todos es un proceso (here in Colombia, everything is a process).

 

I am happy to let you know that after our first two months we have finally finished our entire main transitioning tasks. We have an apartment, Colombian cell phones, utilities, a car, our Colombian Identification (cedula), health insurance, our Colombian bank account, a school for our girls, furniture, appliances, and we have officially started studying to better our Spanish. Thank you so much for supporting the Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund, because with out that financial support we would not have any of these things done.

 

I would be lying if I said it has all gone smoothly or it was easy. We had a couple of weeks that were difficult, but then God continually showed us a reason we were here or sent your voices in support and encouragement. It is amazing how we often grow in difficult times. I was reminded of this when I read a note from a former student that quoted a known favorite Bible verse of mine. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). I can already see ways that we, as a family, have grown from our mildly difficult times and we can look back and say we are thankful for these times.

 

Many people are curious and ask me how our girls are doing and the answer is fantastic. That’s not to say that we haven’t had a transitional time with food and culture, but generally they are well. They love the school they are in. We went to a school party a couple of weeks ago where they had to dress up in the traditional Colombian outfits and where we didn’t know Bella had been practicing a group dance with her classmates. You sometimes question how your children are doing until you see them running around with other children laughing, dancing, and playing not yielding to any kind of language barrier. Everyday Bella comes home with more Spanish. She is already responding to questions in Spanish and commanding her sister to either sit down or get out of her room in her new language.

 

Jessica and I have been working with friends, we are so thankful for them, who have been willing to help us with our Spanish. Last week we started some intensive interactive Spanish lessons. We can already tell a great difference in language and feel that there is hope for future fluency.

We have been traveling, when we can, to all of our churches in the Medellin area. We still lack two of them, but we love the time we have spent on Sundays with new friends and fellow workers in the Kingdom of God. I already have had communion for one of our missions in Spanish, I’m sure it was like one of my first sermons… awful, but everyone was really nice and said it went well. I am having communion for another mission this week and creating a schedule to help a couple of the missions have communion on a regular basis.

 

Right now we study and wait. We are at an odd place where we really want to get to work in the churches and presbytery, but can’t until our Spanish is better. We are eager and motivated! Have there been some difficulties, yes, but ultimately things are going really well.

 

We have started the early stages of planning to hopefully host a mission team from the USA in March. We look forward to planning mission trips with you or having you visit us here in Colombia!

 

Until next time… Dios Te Bendiga (God Bless You)

 

The Wilkerson Family

Only 6 Weeks Until We Leave!!!

The time is flying by and we cannot believe the last year we’ve had and what is ahead of us in six short weeks. Our blog is intended to express both the voices of Jessica and I. Maybe even the girls as they get older and if we are still in the mission field. Today we are writing in a way that will accomplish that goal. Jessica and I will both write about the whirlwind of a year we have had and how we feel preparing for our near departure on July 12th. I hope you enjoy!

A note from Patrick:

A Time of Prayer
Rev. Lynn Thomas (Director of Global Missions) praying for me in 2006 in Japan. We are on the far right

As I sit and look at the picture above, I can’t believe that it was taken almost eleven years ago. I would had never imagined that me kneeling in Japan in front of Rev. Lynn Thomas (Director of Global Missions) would some day turn into a relationship of mission work together. I know for a fact, that back then, I had no clue that Lynn would one day be my boss and I would be serving in a country he served in and loves so much. Yet, here we are. Six weeks from departure for the biggest job, move, and adventure of our lives.

This year or so has been a crazy blur of awesome memories. We applied for the mission field, had to tell Beaver Creek and Helen Ross McNabb Center that we were leaving our jobs, had to tell our family and friends we were moving to a foreign country, we were endorsed as Cumberland Presbyterian Missionaries, We moved into the basement for a year of some very gracious friends we now call family, moved to Jessica’s parents where they treat us so well, either donated or sold most of our stuff, we went out of town nearly every weekend to share our callings and raise funds for the Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund (SW), went on a preview trip to Colombia, participated in our first film about SW, got passports for our daughters (you should have seen us get an official picture of a newborn), got our VISA’S, and spent as much time as possible with our families.

It has been enough to drive a person crazy, but the other day as we were driving we decided it has been amazing. This experience has been one of the coolest things I’ve ever done… and we aren’t even in Colombia yet. We have been tired, yes! We have been stressed, yes! We are ready to go, YES!

But here is the deal; we have learned so much about who we are, who our family is, and how God works. These learning experiences have us so excited to go out and share with others. God has been the constant in this experience and I feel like my relationship with Him is stronger that any other time in my life. I see His workings and footprints around every corner of this crazy journey! I can’t wait to get to Colombia and see how He continues to work and to use our family to hopefully further His Kingdom!

I know the next six weeks will fly by, but I’m ready. I know it is going to be crazy and I can already feel the time I have to spend with family and friends coming to an end, but I’m ready. There are still a lot of unknowns ahead of us, but I don’t have any fear or stress about the future, because God has done more than necessary to provide and lead our family thus far!

Thank you for all your support during this last year! We truly appreciate you all and hope to see you in the near future…. in the USA or in Colombia!

Blessings!

Patrick

A note from Jessica:

 

I cannot believe how crazy this year has been and how fast it has flown by for us! I am constantly blown away by how much my life individually and our life as a family has changed in just one year! I feel so honored and blessed to have had these experiences. Although at times it was stressful and tiresome, it has been such a positive experience for all of us. We have been able to meet some pretty amazing people from across the denomination (and eat some pretty amazing potlucks)! It has been really neat to see how the Church is doing, and I am proud to say we have been VERY well received and treated very graciously. People have welcomed our loud, rambunctious children and have made sure they were cared for in Children’s Church or the nursery. Bella has been very excited to go to a “new church” to meet “new friends” most weekends. Although she does miss Beaver Creek, and we have caught her many times pretending to be Mrs. Barbara!

We are six weeks away. Just six weeks! It feels like it has taken forever to get here, but it also has been so quick and a blur! We are very excited, a little nervous, and a tad overwhelmed with the thought of finalizing things, storing the rest of our belongings, and packing our eight suitcases. We feel like we kind-of know what to expect when we get there, but we also know its probably going to be way different than we ever imagined.

I am very sad to leave family and friends, but I’m also very anxious to get there and get settled into a new home, a new culture, and a new language.  We are so thankful for the prayers and support everyone has given, and we continue to need prayers as we get ready to embark on one the greatest opportunities of our lives.

Hasta Luego!

Jessica

We officially have our Visa’s!!!

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To say that the last month of our lives has been crazy would be an understatement! We are getting so close to leaving for Colombia that it is sometimes hard to believe. All the plans and all the dreams are coming into action.

In the last few weeks we have both stopped working for our employers, we have sold my truck and all the furniture and items we were planning to sell, we have moved to Jessica’s parents’ house where we will stay until we move, and we have traveled to Atlanta to obtain our Religious Worker Visas! This has been an exciting, yet emotional, process.

Jessica has to retire her LCSW license that she has worked so hard to attain so that it doesn’t expire while we are gone. I preached my last sermon at Beaver Creek and said goodbye to my youth group that I love and already miss so much. We had to move out and say goodbye to Don and Marion Sweet who have graciously allowed us to live in their basement for the past year. Bella has asked many times when we are going back to her house so she can sleep in her Mini Mouse bed (we sold it) and see Don and Marion.

So many doors have been opening over the last few years and for a long time we have been living in a world with multiple doors open. We have been able to straddle the threshold and live a life where we experience multiple worlds. Now, some very important and large doors seem to be closing while others are fully opening. It is becoming real and difficult to say certain goodbyes.

We are still waiting to hear when we can leave for sure, but it should be sometime in the first two weeks of July. Until we get on that plane we will continue to go through our stuff to decide what we actually need to keep or can get rid of, we will try to visit with friends and family as much as possible, and we will continue traveling so that we can share with people about the Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund and about our callings to Colombia.

We know that the next 3 months will fly by! There is so much to do and so much of it we are doing for the first time in our lives. Please continue to raise us up in prayer so that the transition can continue to go well and that we can begin the work God has called us to do in Medellin as soon as possible! Also, (you know that if I have been around you in the last year I’m going to plug this) please continue to consider how you can support us and all our other missionaries around the world by contributing to the Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund! We are praying that more families, friends, congregations, groups, and presbyteries will find ways to support Stott-Wallace long term by giving every year. Click on the link below to see how to do this and to watch the new video!

Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund

 

The New Stott-Wallace Video

Hey Everyone!

We want to mention a couple of things today.

  1. Please watch and share the video posted below. It is the new video to promote our mission work in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and our Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund. Our good friends, Bob Wheeler, did a fantastic job following the Simms Family (Brazil) and our family (Colombia) and capturing our stories. WATCH IT!!!!
  2. We have been very busy and are get so close to leaving for Colombia we can already taste the coffee and chicharrones. We will post later this week with an update, so keep your eyes open and look for it.

Enjoy this video!!!

Click on this link to see the video: 2017 Stott-Wallace Missionary Offering Fund Video