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Bogota and to Barranca

Hello, Friends,

In hushed voices, the Mennonites I was staying told this story, which had happened just the day before. A hunted man (we will call José), who has been on the paramilitary’s (paras) do-away-with list, was kidnapped here in Bogota. José had, by God’s grace, escaped when the car broke down. In running away he fell and cut his abdomen. Fortunately, no organs were damaged; the hospital refused to give him further treatment because José was not registered in the system.

José, part of a family with two small children, was on his way to meet with a Mennonite pastor. He had suffered gunshot wounds and stabbing from previous attacks. The church has been trying to help him get asylum in Canada. It looked like he would get asylum, and then the Canadian administration changed, and they have now rejected him. It is now in appeal.

The other thing is that numerous Mennonite church people leaders fear for their safety. And so I want to beg you to pray for these concerns and for justice and peace for Colombia. Through your prayers and concern, you are an intimate part of my work. The violence has gotten considerably worse for the Mennonite church since I was here a year ago. The Mennonite Church has been having regular meetings to pray for protection, justice, and peace. These unsafe times are developing the church’s dependency on the Lord.

I have had some adjustments to make. One was the ten hour bus ride from Bogota to Barrancabermeja (Barranca). The first four hours consisted of continued switchbacks up and down mountains through some beautiful country. Then for the next six hours the bus went into the tropics. My body has to adjust because it approaches 100 degrees every day. When it gets to 80, I am very grateful.

On the trip we had a good conversation with an 11th grade girl about CPT work. I showed her some photos of CPT projects and shared stories about the pictures and about my involvement in El Salvador, Bolivia, and with overground railroad refugees. She hopes to become a physical therapist and help children who have been injured from landmines in Colombia. She asked how she could get involved with the Church with helping people like I have been doing. Since she is from Bogota, I gave her Mennonite church contacts there that are doing lots of work with people suffering from the 40-year civil war here. She asked me to pray for her and her broken family.

I mentioned that we believe Jesus calls us to love our enemies. She said, “That is hard, if not impossible.” I said it is hard, but if we ask God to help us, God can make it a reality. Time will tell how God might use this sharing; it seemed a real gift.

I got my visa fine, thanks for your prayers.

Shalom, Jim

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