Becky and I arrived here in Bogotá, Colombia in the dead of night. We knew little or no Spanish. The rest of our team were either stuck in the Dominican Republic because of cancelled flights or were arriving later that night. So, we waited, sitting by our suitcases and packing crates watching the crowds moving about the airport. Helpless, but glad to finally be here. That was a year ago today. Today, our Spanish is much better. We have grown to love this amazing city with its car alarms at all hours of the day and night, crazy traffic, broken sidewalks, potholes, and incredible coffee. We have met some fascinating people and made new friends – both Colombiano and Gringo. We have moved into ministry – helping the Colombian churches with music, leadership training and outreach. Every day we move deeper and deeper into the culture. And every day we learn more and more about life here. And every day we learn more and more that we know so little. Cultures are deep things.
It took almost two months to find and move into our apartment. We had been living at the mercy of others for a long time; and we were thrilled to have our little apartment all to ourselves. Furnishing it was fun. From here we began to work with our Spanish tutor, Martha Ruiz, who has come to our home five days each week for two hours to teach us. We have studied with here now for about nine months. There is still so much to learn, but it is coming. Many have prayed for our none too young brains to absorb this totally new way of communicating to the world. Thank you. But, it is one thing to sit in a class and another to venture forth and communicate. But we do. Every day. We talk with grocery store clerks, bank tellers, taxi drivers, neighbors, security guards and the people in the churches. The taxi drivers are great. I get into the cab and tell the driver where I need to go. Often I will then say; “Disculpe, mi español es malo (Excuse me, my Spanish is bad.).” Oddly, once I say this, the taxistas feel free to start talking to me – in Spanish. Becky and I have had some great conversations with the cab drivers.
For many months we attended Iglesia Cristo Rey. These people loved us and were so patient in speaking with us. A few knew some English and were always happy to practice their English while we practiced our Spanish. A month ago we began attending another church, Refugio. Here, I am helping build up the music. So, I have actually been using my guitar much more than I had anticipated. Also, Refugio is reaching out to the neighborhood in which it meets by offering English classes based on the Gospel of Mark. Each week there have been more people and some of them have begun to come to Refugio on Sunday mornings. Becky and I are working with a group that already know some English and wish to practice and learn a bit more. We have begun to have some good discussions around Mark’s Gospel. Tonight I am going to attend my first presbytery meeting here. I already know many of the pastors and elders who will attend. Some of the churches in the presbytery are not too close, so those pastors will attend by Skype. Since we are still working on our Spanish, our work load is definitely increasing as our work with the churches grows. There are many more opportunities coming as well. I have already had three opportunities to preach this year at United Church of Bogotá, which is the only English speaking protestant church in the city. Some from our team work with this church and Becky and I have been blessed to minister there when we can. But our focus has been the Colombian churches.
In May Becky and I were able to go to Bucaramanga with another couple on our team, Dick and Joanne Brown, and the pastor from Refugio, Javier Muñoz, and his wife Sandra. The church in Bucaramanga is the first reformed church in the city and the fastest growing church in the denomination. We spent a few days on a retreat with the elder and deacon candidates from the church – working with them on the role of the officers in the church. It was a great time. It certainly stretched our Spanish (and maybe their English). We were able to visit the Chicamocha Canyon outside of Bucaramanga which is the second largest canyon in the Americas. This whole country is just so beautiful. Last week our team went on a retreat to coffee country.
Just over a month before we left the States Becky and I had our first granddaughter. Avie Peregrin Lewis was born last August to our daughter, Noelle, and her husband, Michael. This past year she has really grown up. We were able to spend a lot of time with her since we were in Charlotte when she was born and we stayed there for six weeks before we headed south. We were able to see her last month as well when Becky and I visited the States. In May we had our first grandson, Ian Ashton Winfree Mendez. He was born in Cancún, Mexico to our daughter, Laura, and her husband, Jorge. This has really been a wonderful and blessed year for us. We spent some weeks in Cancún with Laura and family in May and June. I can only say that this grandparent thing is not overrated.
So many of you have supported us by your encouragement, prayers and finances. We are blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. Our work is only beginning. Our Lord has been so kind to us in so many ways and we are thankful to Him for every single thing. To God be the glory.
- Far, Far More
- Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a New Year