We have returned home from Medellin from our preview trip. We intended on writing a blog when we first returned, but it is hard for us to put into words the great experience we had. Still yet, I will try to do my best!
The first thing I have to mention is how amazing our hosts were to us. They, without a doubt, made us feel welcome and a part of the Colombian Cumberland Presbyterian Church right away. The first full day that we were there we had a meeting with all the churches, the pastors, and their leaders. We were, in a way, nervous. It was a little overwhelming to sit in a room with all the people you will be working with looking at you. They shared about their churches and a little about the ministry they are doing. After they all shared they asked if we wanted to say anything, so we introduced ourselves and talked about how excited we were to come and live and work in their communities. We, of course, asked them to be patient with us while we tried out best to master the Spanish language.
It was at this point that one of the most beautiful things on this trip happened. They expressed to us that they know what we are doing is difficult. They know that it won’t be easy for us to leave our family, to leave our country, to leave our comforts, and it definitely won’t be easy for us to learn the language. I was blown away when they then told us with genuine hearts that they love us, that they will be there for us, that they will be our family in Colombia, and they will help us in any way they can.
I was literally brought to tears as they were saying this. The love of our Colombian brothers and sisters is amazingly inspirational. I sat there wondering who is ministering to who? Am I going to serve the people in Colombia or are they serving me? I may still be trying to figure that out, but one thing is for sure. My family is blessed to call Medellin our home and to serve in such an authentic church. This meeting set the tone of our visit.
Over the week we looked at housing, went to most of the churches to meet with their pastors and leaders in more depth, looked at furniture, and found out that they have peanut butter, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and Prego Spaghetti Sauce in some of the stores.
So here is the scoop!
We are going to live in a neighborhood in Medellin called Envigado. From there we will work mainly with four new church developments in Envigado, Amaga, Cristobal, and Bello. While working with these new missions, I will be looking for other opportunities to plant future churches. We will have other Presbyterial responsibilities to make sure it is growing, there is good leadership, there are youth events, men/women events, young adult events, and I will provide pastoral care to the pastors. We are also excited that we get to coordinate and host mission teams that want to come and serve in Colombia. So get your passports ready and start dreaming for how you could join us in serving in Colombia. The last thing I will do is to spend time and mentor our seminary students. I’m really looking forward to this.
I know it sounds like I (Patrick) will have my hands full, but what about Jessica? I want to share about the second most beautiful thing that happened on our trip. While meeting with our mission in Amaga in their new building, I saw the awesome work of God unfolding. As they sat and talked about their community and the things they struggle with, the past, and their dreams for the church, I believe Jessica discovered her calling in Colombia.
The pastor started sharing and I saw Jessica’s face light up a little more with each issue, and here is why. Amaga is a coal mining community up in the mountains that has been devastated by the mines. They deal a lot with depression, suicide, single mothers raising families because their fathers are either gone or dead, gangs, and so much more. This is what Jessica has been dealing with her entire career. If you don’t know, she worked in a behavioral school with troubled inner city youth, she did mental health crisis assessments and safety planning, she worked with foster kids in transition into adulthood, and most recently she works as a counselor in a mountain community north of Knoxville that is an old coal mining town that deals with similar issues as Amaga.
When the pastor and leaders heard about her experience working with these issues they laughed and said, “Patrick, we don’t really need you. We just need Jessica!” I am so excited that Jessica feels like she has a tangible purpose and calling from God in Colombia. It made me so happy to know that God doesn’t just call a person, but their family. I’m also not too upset that when we go to Amaga I can sit back, drink coffee, and watch my beautiful bride do her thing!
So, how was our preview trip? It was everything it needed to be. We have a vision for our future work, we have relationships that are growing with amazing people, we know a little bit more what life will look like for us in Colombia, and we can’t wait to move there in the next several months!
Thank you for your prayers while we were gone and as we prepare to move to Colombia. I hope that you will continue to follow and join us in our experience.