I (Craig) have asked two members of the team, Valentina Contessa and Marina Del Pizzo to write entries for the blog. Here is their first blog post:
Dear Spanish River,
As a part of the mission trip Valentina and I (Marina) were asked to write a daily blog so that all of our friends and family could read it back home and find out all the things we are doing.We all had a safe and enjoyable flight to beautiful Cali, praise the Lord! Upon arriving at the airport we were welcomed by the enormous loving family of Javier’s church. After getting to know everyone we then parted for the hotel considering it was already 9:30. After waking up at what felt to be the crack of dawn, we enjoyed a fresh home-cooked breakfast including juevos (eggs), fruit, authentic Colombian coffee, and an assortment of tropical juices. Our group of 18 then loaded the bus and headed to the Sunday morning service at a combined meeting of all the church plants in the Cali area . This was a special service celebrating the fourth anniversary of the first church plant in Cali.
Pastor Javier moved to Cali from Villa Vicencio four years ago to start that church and has since planted five more. Part of the service was an ordination of four new elders. You would be surprised at the amount of people who actually attend this service because of the size of the building. Imagine having about 60 people without air, in Sunday apparel, standing for about an hour, in a room smaller than Spanish River’s lobby! Yet despite the lack of cool air and personal space, the church family was as welcoming as could be and did not seem to be phased by anything.
During the service we saw the Latino version of our praise team sing original songs that they created from Pslams and various verses in the Bible. Our team (Diane, Tom, Luca and Craig) had a chance to show the church how we worship in Boca and regardless of the language difference almost every person standing in the crowd was singing along to both versions. The select few on the team that could not quite understand Spanish were provided with the translation headsets so they could also understand Javier’s message. The congregation was not only able to witness Javier preach but to see each pastor from four other churches speak as well.
After the service ended we all thanked the church for their hospitality and went to a purely authentic Colombian restaurant complete with a couple that played instruments and sang while we waited for lunch. The restaurant was on the third floor so once again we were able to have a scenic view of the mountains in the distance. Not only was our entire group there, but about 8 of Javier’s church members came to join us so it felt like we were just one big family. Since we were so many people we got to see almost everything on the menu considering that almost no one ordered the same thing.
Once we finished lunch Javier thought it would be a good idea to go back to the hotel and take a nap for a little. Around 4:30 the bus was back however, ready to take us to Javier’s main church. When we got there we were greeted with open arms and big smiles by close to 90 people!
We decided that we were going to worship some more because right after arriving, we gave Javier a brand new keyboard that he listed as his number one priority! The worship team was so greatful that the only thing we all wanted to do was to use it. In between songs Javier would talk and David and Fernando would take turns translating. They both have had a lot of practice since they both do the translations at Spanish River.
Javier also thought it would be a good idea to have select members of our church come to the stage and talk about their testimony to God. David and Tom from our team shared how God had worked in their lives. The experience of hearing group members talk about how God brought them through hard times in their life was really special.
Once we finished the worship hour we did what people do almost every hour of the day in any Latin American country…. EAT! The church had organized for us to all enjoy a fresh lechon (pig). And when I’m talking pig it was the entire pig along with rice and a few other sides. Like nothing everyone was helping serve and pass out this delicious meal. The amount of hospitality is refreshing considering that not one person is asked but throughout the social hour various church members would walk around with soda, food, or the garbage bag so that no one had to leave their conversation and get up to throw something away.
After we all literally finished the entire meal, we decided to hand out the hand-picked outfits that the Lord’s closet team has put together for the children. Seeing the parents and children’s faces light up was an experience in its own. However, the children surprised us with a little gift as well. The children decided to make us the cutest little door-knob hangers all by hand!
We then socialized and enjoyed everyone’s company in the church while organizing the medicine crafts and activities for the next day. When the bus did arrive though, I almost didn’t want to go back to the hotel although i was exhausted. The church was so welcoming and kind that we could not wait to go back the next day.