Colombia and Contentment

Written by Brandy Wallis

For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised by the topic I’ve chosen for my blog this month. For those who don’t, buckle up because you’re about to get a crash course in “the things that make Pastor Brandy tick”! Obviously, as your missions pastor, I am passionate about seeing the lost saved and reconciled to Jesus. I mean, that is the purpose of sharing the gospel with everyone we can, right? Hearing about how much Jesus loves us, how He wants to have a relationship with us, and that He paid the price for our sins to be forgiven never gets old to me. I hope it never does! No matter the continent that I am on, the language (or languages) being spoken, or the place where the message is being preached, my soul rejoices every single time one more soul is added to the Kingdom of Heaven!  

In the book of Matthew, Jesus’ message is clear to us when it pertains to the great commission.  In the 28th chapter, verses 19-20 remind us that it is the responsibility of every believer to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A little over a week ago, we returned from a short-term trip where we served alongside missionaries Jon & DeDe McCluey and their amazing kids! They serve in the beautiful country of Colombia, South America, primarily in the region of Bogota. When I tell you these folks really are the real deal, I mean it! Their ministry caters to an entire population group that is often overlooked, not just with ministry but honestly, everywhere. The McCluey’s have dedicated their mission in life to reaching the deaf communities, amongst other ministry avenues.

We have been on mission trips before where we have navigated communicating through different language barriers. But never have we navigated the complexity of two language barriers at the same time! Since their native language is Spanish, their sign language is also in Spanish and more specifically, Colombian sign language. If you’re like me, I was confused by that in the beginning. I guess I just assumed that sign language was a universal language in and of itself. It is not! In fact, there are an estimated 300 different sign languages in the world spoken by roughly 72 million people. Seventy-two million people! As a person who lives roughly 35 minutes from the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, I am ashamed that I did not know that. Did you?

On our first and second day of ministry in Bogota, we were tasked with hanging out at the school with the kids, aged 8-18. We performed a skit for them, played games, did crafts together, learned dances, went on a field trip together, and they taught us as much sign language as we wanted to learn. They were eager to teach those who wanted to learn. It wasn’t too long before we realized that the obstacle we thought would be our biggest challenge, wasn’t an obstacle at all! Differences in languages really do not separate us. Differences in spirits do! We were kindred spirits with those students and very quickly we made deep connections with them. You wouldn’t think that you could get so attached to complete strangers after only two days but you can and we did! 

On Saturday, we visited a newer church plant in the small village of Soacha, located about an hour west of Bogota. You can’t adequately describe the type of poverty that exists in a place like this. It is one of those things that must be seen with the physical eye to truly be understood. It’s a place where survival is literally the only thing that can be focused on. These people have less than nothing, living in homes made from materials we would discard, in an area where the very mountainside they live on tries to kill them on a regular basis. Daily survival is the name of the game. 

As we began to kick off our kids’ event at their “park,” we began to see kid after kid heading our way. Intrigued with curiosity about the first ever “gringos” they had seen. Kids who were no more than eight or nine years old, caring and being responsible for their younger siblings. A six year old little girl who came to the park all by herself, with no parental supervision, told us that she lives with her grandmother because her parents went away. 

I looked into the faces of all of these beautiful souls and was quickly reminded of the meaning behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 19, where He says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children”. These kids, regardless of their circumstances or disabilities, were not only content with the life the Lord had blessed them with, but they had obtained true happiness and joy. The kind of joy that can’t be taken away! I want to live my life like all of those children. 

There are so many other stories that I could share with you all that happened while we were in Colombia. So many more! But for now, these are the things I want to resonate within myself. I don’t want to have this type of an experience and then walk away and within six months go back to life as usual. I want experiences with God and with his Kingdom to truly change who I am. I want contentment with Jesus because Jesus is enough! He has always been and will continue being enough. The gospel is so powerful in and of itself that nothing needs to be added or taken away. The gospel is enough! Is Jesus and his message enough for you?

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it”. –1 Timothy 6:6-7.

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