my colombian heart (part 7)… church in the swamp

What I’m going to share with you is the fire burning in my soul. It’s what I think about, and what I pray about, and what I want to share with anyone who will listen.

I shared with you in post 6 about the great poverty I experienced while touring certain areas in Cartagena. I tried my hardest to use words that would communicate the depth of my burden for the people living in the swamps we toured. I don’t know that I will ever be able find the words to accurately communicate what God did in my heart and what I saw with my eyes.

As I have been processing and “exhaling” over the past month since we have been home, I have made a very important realization.

The local church is paramount in the transformation of the world. 

That’s it.

In the United States, it’s so easy to write off the importance of the local church because there are so many accessible churches. We take for granted that, at any given time, we can attend a church based event practically in our backyard. We can hear an inspirational message online any time we need a “pick me up”. When a family is legitimately struggling, a church may intervene financially, but they could definitely provide emotional and spiritual support with little effort. Children are provided with programming that meets them where they’re at in order to communicate the love of Christ to them. We need never worry about being without support. It’s always there; right around the corner.

In Colombia, I saw one outreach based church in the community. When I entered the swamp (as well as other incredibly impoverished areas of Cartagena), there wasn’t a church nearby. At all. Anywhere. I don’t even know how many miles it would be to walk to a church that was actively pursuing the community.

Bill Hybels, an amazing speaker and pastor, once said “The local church is the hope of the world.” I have always agreed with this concept. However, I saw this quote exemplified while in Cartagena. Let me explain.

The community surrounding Exodo (the church we came along side of while in Cartagena), is thriving. I could clearly see the support Exodo is providing the individuals and families in the homes all around the four walls of the church. It was more than that though… The members of Exodo are full of the love of Christ; they are so full that the light and love of Christ is exploding and permeating the streets, walls, lives, hearts, minds and businesses around them.

What I’m trying to communicate to you is this:
There must be a local church in the swamp. The local church is crucial, and the world needs followers that are willing to live in the dirty water with the gang members, young mothers, laborers, and elderly.

I want to end this post with a song by Hillsong United called Love Is War. One line says
“Hold my heart within this grace
Where burden turns to wonder”

I am daily seeking the Lord to ask Him to turn my burden for the swamp into wonder and awe of His amazing mercy and unfailing plan.

I am challenging you to do the same. Ask God to set you on fire in the area He has called you to serve, and be willing to fight to follow that call.