Back in 1999, an American-produced video, Transformations, shook the Christian world, with stories of how God was revolutionising four very different parts of the globe. Kiambu, Kenya: Hemet, California: Almalonga, Guatemala: and Cali, Colombia. I’d been coming to Cali for a few years before the video hit the world (and it WAS a video, too, VHS: remember them??!!) – when I came to Cali after its release, I was asked ‘Have you seen it?’ and ‘What do you think of it?’.
The stories were thrilling: if you haven’t ever seen it, it’s worth watching, you’ll find it on YouTube, as I doubt it’s available commercially now. The section of the video is here:
My answers to the questions seemed to be the right answers for the ‘locals’ – ‘yes, I’ve seen it’, and (sorry to my American friends!) ‘I feel it’s very American and it struck me as being overstated’…. there was a huge sigh of relief from the local Christians, who, of course, were involved in what God was doing, and what had been filmed… It gave the impression that Cali was in full-blown revival, that – across the board – the crime rate had dropped by half. It did drop amazingly – for the weekends that the stadium prayer meetings were being held. Crime rose again after the weekends…. What WAS happening wasn’t -yet – revival, but the foundations of revival were being laid with the unity of more than 300 pastors.
It also gave the impression that Julio Ruibal, the ‘trigger’ pastor for the unifying of hundreds of pastors, was ‘assassinated’ because of the ‘revival’. He wasn’t. It seems it was over a parking dispute with neighbours of his church, and one took out a contract on him as people from the church kept parking on his land.
Why am I writing this? Well, after the video came out, some pastors became ‘famous’ in the western world, and were invited to the USA, Europe, Australia…. some came back here with pockets loaded with cash, church bank accounts full to overflowing – and no longer needed the same level of unity as they could build big new churches, take on more staff, and so on…. and the revival never had a chance to ‘explode’ and transform the city. The rising move of the Holy Spirit began to wane. For a time, I wondered if it signalled the end of my time here, as the stadium meetings petered out to two a year, then one… and the wonderful growth in the churches slowed, as well as a demise of the pastor’s group.
BUT, then…an increasing number of pastors from smaller churches began to work together, and the rising influence of the Holy Spirit began to take prominence. There are some wonderful pastors who are shepherding the move of God here, including some of the bigger pastors. For me, it’s a real thrill to be involved a tiny bit in the ongoing surge of God’s move and presence in this previously devastated troubled city, the be here under the open heaven, for me – and those who come here with me – is a huge privilege. Pastors like William Castaño, Wilson Monroy, Jefferson Herrera, Mauricio Naspiran, Angela Mondragon, Diego Ordoñez, and so many more.
Far from cutting back the number of visits to Cali, I’m thinking of increasing them…. and praying about renting a ‘permanent’ apartment for my times here and for the teams that come with me. For many years I’ve rented short term, and the short-term rentals are getting more and more expensive as Cali, with it’s ‘ambience’ changing for the good visit upon visit, is getting more and more tourists now. The completion of a fantastic new international airport terminal happened a couple of months ago, so more and more visitors will be here. Short-term rentals are necessary as it is important to have the team together as much as possible, as to have them spread out around homes means maybe a 2 hour drive in the morning to pick them up with the traffic here being terrible, and the same to drop off: then pick up for the evening meetings…it can easily be 6 hours a day in a car just to collect and drop people off! It also means that as a team, we can really BE a team, working together more, praying together, sharing testimonies and problems, too. The average rental for a 5/6 berth apartment is around £800, sometimes even upwards of £1000 a week now – it used to be about £300 5-6 years back. It seems that there’s an apartment coming available in time for the October/November trip when I’ll be bringing a team (might need two apartments for that one, as there could be a dozen or so coming!), when Thanney will complete the construction of the street kids’ refuge and all the ‘cosmetic’ work will be finished: then it’ll be handed over to Mision El Abrigo Internacional. The apartment that will be available will be perfect in many ways – it’s directly above the apartment of Wilmar & Marlene and their family, so they’ll keep an eye on it when I’m not there! And for month, it’s only 35% of the weekly cost of a short-term rental. I have lots of people who are telling me that they want to come here, so to have somewhere as a base seems right: and that it’s just above Wilmar – where apartments are very hard to come by, seems like a God-thing.
Wednesday’s meeting blog to follow!!