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Light in the Opon

Hello friends,

"Have you heard what happened last night?" Jorge, the pastor, and Lucy, his wife, asked us. Duane and I answered, "No we haven't." This was right after worship at the church in the Opon.

"Two persons were drunk. The one, Felipe, hit the other, Manuel, three times with a machete, one of those times on the head. Manuel was bleeding profusely, was bandaged at the local health post, and then taken the1½ hour boat trip to a clinic in Barranca."

The tension in the town was very high over this, and there was fear that more violence could erupt if family and friends sought revenge. So we thought we should do whatever we could to keep more violence from happening. The church leaders asked us to visit Felipe. In the past Felipe had been a leader in a small church there. He was very glad for our visit.

Duane explained CPT's interest in avoiding violence and offered to help communicate anything Felipe might have to say to anyone that could make reprisals less likely or help the community deal with Felipe's public display of violence. Felipe said he was willing to talk with anyone in order to resolve the situation in a good way.

Then Duane and I made a visit to Manuel's house. Manuel's ten-year-old son Pedro was there, being cared for by a teenaged young man. We introduced ourselves and CPT, expressed sorrow on his father's injuries, asked how he was, etc. Pedro said, "My dad is going to have a head X-ray and the injuries are bad." We passed along Felipe's expression of willingness to work out some kind of solution. The four of us prayed for healing for Manuel and the community. We left a CPT brochure with Pedro.

We than visited with Jorge and Lucy again. We recommended that they visit with Felipe. Jorge said, "I thought and prayed about it last night, and I felt the Lord tell me I should not visit Felipe." Duane offered for us to go again to visit with Felipe. What if Felipe were to say he would like a visit with you? To this Jorge and Lucy said, "Then we would be ready to visit with him together with the two of you." Another trip by boat and a yes from Felipe, and then back to pick up Jorge and Lucy, and back to Felipe just as heavy rain began to fall.

Jorge, an uneducated 76-year-old farmer, then gave a 25-minute talk followed by allowing Felipe to speak. I feared it would be a fire-and-brimstone talk full of judgment. But I was very pleasantly surprised at his emphasis on God's love. As he said, "It's never too late to turn around. God is always there loving us."

In some ways I felt I had witnessed a real example of how we should practice calling back a brother or sister who has strayed. He spoke very truthfully and straightforwardly, but yet he never lost sight of God's forgiveness and love. God has developed some real pastoral gifts in Jorge and Lucy.

All-in-all it was a positive interchange that ended in a prayer that Duane made sure included a heartfelt prayer from Felipe for Manuel's healing and well being. Duane followed with a request that through Jorge and Lucy, Felipe make some reconciling gesture to Manuel and family. Just as we finished, rain slowed enough so that we could make one more quick stop at Manuel's house, at which we assure them of our prayers. The people there said, "Manuel is better and out of the clinic and walking and eating normally." We were thankful to hear this.

Duane did a very good job of being culturally sensitive. He pushed Jorge, Lucy and Felipe at certain points and yet let them be themselves in their culture. I sense your prayers were a part in helping us to be salt and light in this situation. Keep them up, for we are not out of this tunnel yet. We did hear this positive news that Manuel had returned and that Jorge had made contact with his family.

From left to right is Jorge, Lucy, and Juan, who are all church leaders, and me just after the worship time outside their meeting house.
The Church sign says, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Your agent for peace in Colombia,

Jim

PS. I wonder how much this kind of violence is perpetuated by 45 years of trying to solve the differences in this country with guns ?

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