How do I begin to summarise what was, perhaps, one of the most remarkable trips I’ve undertaken in almost 30 years? It’s so difficult to encapsulate what God did during 20 days in the wonderful country of Colombia: the funny thing is, that if you’d told me 20 years ago I’d even MAKE that statement, I’d have laughed, as then, there was no way I would – humanly – have even thought of going there, because of its history of civil war, still going on big-time when I first went in 1997: still going on now, though much has changed for the better.
As I look back over 17 years (nearly!) and 51 trips, it really does seem that, every time, God does more, stretches me more, astonishes me more. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. If God had told me, when I started travelling, some of the countries I’d go to, I’d have laughed and said ‘No way!’. Instead, he ‘teased’ me in 1987, when the ‘call’ to travel was undeniable and irrefutable, with a couple of trips to France, one to Hong Kong, and another – to which I objected strongly, but couldn’t refuse God’s persistence – to Ghana. France was, back then, one of my favourite countries, so no problem there. Hong Kong in ’87 was still ‘British’ so I felt happy about that, as well as it being a ‘gadget shopper’s paradise’. Sneakily, God dangled HK to get me into China: petrified then, but again, eternally grateful since… Ghana began a ‘love relationship’ with Africa that has never died: just not the opportunity, or the time, to go there too much in recent years.
Why? Because I’d never thought to tell God I didn’t want to go to Latin America: more specifically, South America. Again, God sneakily ‘teased’ me to go there with the temptation of a ‘chilli-eating’ contest in Mexico: a country still right at the top of the agenda for me, along with Colombia. It was in Mexico that I met Argentinians, Brazilians, Salvadorans, and Colombians…. and there’s been no looking back: less still, no desire to stop going. Just the opposite, in fact.
Every trip to Colombia has, it seems, surpassed the one before, every trip producing different experiences, of God’s heart, His love, His power. And, for the most part, people I’ve taken with me, find the same desire to go back, at least a few times. This trip was no different: Simon there for the third time, Robert a second massive undertaking to go from Australia. Already, for the next trip, my friend Chris Spark has his name on the list, his third visit.
Why? My only explanation can be, and is, that perhaps because of it’s last 50 years of bloodshed and the stigma of it’s drug ‘industry’, God is opening the heavens over the country more and more. It really IS, in my experience of 100+ countries, the country with the widest aperture of heaven over it!
Jesus said to John the Baptist’s disciples, in Mark: ‘Tell John the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor’. That would be my summation of 17 years of going there: all we DIDN’T see over the last 3 weeks was the raising of the dead: but then we didn’t come across any dead people! I suppose we COULD walk unannounced into funeral homes, but generally it’s ‘politic’ to have the request from relatives of the deceased to bring them back! 21 years after shaking the hands of two ex-dead ladies in China, God did that miracle in Colombia (2008): he’ll do it again one day, of that I’m sure.
Eleven people, blind/blind in one eye/or nearly blind, saw: nine people, deaf/deaf in one ear/or minimal hearing, heard. An 86 year old man, Joel, effectively paralysed with compressed vertebrae (no use of arms or hands, decreasing use of legs that ‘weighed a ton’, leaped, squatted, and gripped hands so tight. Elizabeth, also 86, effectively paralysed in that she couldn’t even change sides to lay on in bed, and if she tried, she screamed with pain, walked. Her daughter, Lisa, severe scoliosis, felt her spine move and straighten. Daniella, 13 years old, with asthma, terrible eyesight, and ‘severely’ flat feet, breathed easily, saw perfectly, and had arches formed in less than 15 seconds.
Countless knees were healed: arthrosis and arthritis disappeared. Gonzalo, with muscles & tendons ripped from the bone in his shoulder, and his supra-spinatus tendon ripped, healed. In fact, just about every disease was healed: every affliction cured: and by whom? Just a bunch of ‘ordinary’ lads who choose to believe that God honours the promises of Scripture, and who, despite very real failings (especially on my part, though who doesn’t have them?), believe that they – we – can and will do what Jesus did….and whatever the greater things than Jesus did are, we’re up for them, too….
What’s the reason why God seems to do so much in countries like Colombia? Well, Daniella was suffering from an asthma attack when she went to church: people with migraines GO to church because they’re more likely to get healed there than if they stay at home…. in the western world, such diseases would be the reason we DON’T go to church. A young lady, Marlene, received the miracle of healing of deafness, right at the beginning of the trip. Without knowing where we were going to be in church, so she could bring a friend for healing, she spent the next two weeks going to different churches with her friend in the hope that she’d find us. She did. Her friend was healed instantly. These are the sorts of ‘events’ where Jesus would say, ‘Your faith has made you well’. And so that’s what I said to her friend. Marlene then prayed for another lady, deaf in her right ear, as she had been: she heard.
My friend Simon Guillebaud is writing a 365-day devotional book. In Burundi, Si sees countless miracles of salvation and healing. He wondered if using John 14:12 would make some people ‘feel’ helpless: the only reason people MIGHT feel helpless is because of choice – the choice not to take the ‘risk’ in case it ‘doesn’t work’. You know, over the last 27 years of doing this ‘stuff’, I’ve increasingly realised I can’t do anything, except be obedient to what God says. My part is just that: to be obedient. It’s not my place to heal, simply because I can’t DO that. But I can PRAY: I can RISK: I can COMMAND in the name of Jesus. And the bolder I’ve become in doing the latter, the more I’ve seen God do, over recent years. It still blows me away, nonetheless…. every time someone gets saved, healed….
And then, of course, there is what is the beginning, I pray, of a revolution among some of the ‘favela’ communities: some of you might think this is an unlikely thing to say, but it’s a real privilege to be involved with them, and to know that – as one has definitely said – they trust me, and it’s a wonder to see God start the work of transformation in so many of their lives. To sit and pray with them is a blessing that I can’t even begin to explain, least of all understand, how little old me got to be with them!
As long as my heart keeps beating, and my legs will carry me, I don’t ever want to do anything else other than what I’m doing these last 27 years. Occasionally, just occasionally, to have a little extra money passes across my thought process, but then I think… would I swap money for this…? Never, ever…