Report of Visit to Colombia, April 4-11, 2008.

I left Santa Ana, California on April 4, arriving in Baranquilla, Colombia, on Saturdayday, April 5, where I met up with Ener Sanjuán, pastor of La Paz orthodox presbyterian church in Barranquilla, and José Ríos, pastor of Emmanuel orthodox presbyterian church in that same city. After resting, there was an informal meeting at the meeting place of Emmanuel Church, and books that I had brought from the north were distributed to some of those present, mostly students from San Agustín Seminary, which meets there as well.

On Sunday, April 6, I attended the Sunday School and worship service at La Paz opc. Ener Sanjuán taught from the Canons of Dort in the adult Sunday School class, and then preached an evangelical sermon from Exodus 20:3. The Lord´s Supper was celebrated at the end of the service. I noticed as well that such was also the case at Emmanuel opc. I have explained my personal view that frequent celebration of the Lord´s Supper is once a year, but their view is that they should have weekly celebrations, and do so when an ordained pastor is present, and do so as often as a pastor is present at one of the mission works on the Lord´s Day.

Later in the day, the Presbytery met at La Paz Church. It was interesting that there were some ruling elders present, which was not always true in the past, at least, not to this extent. News was reported from each of the churches and missions. Principal among the bad news was the loss of the pastor and church in Medellín. This was done in an orderly manner, and a fair presentation of the matter was made of the matter. Among the good news was the report from the newest church, which had been added in December, El Pacto church, also in Barranquilla, and their preacher Carlos
Rosanda, a seminarian at San Agustín. There was also a report on the work of  San Agustín Seminary, and their search for help in instructing their students.

On Monday, April 7, I visited with some of the members of the churches. In the evening, I conducted a workshop on the OPC Form of Government. There were about 20 present, almost all of them ministers, elders, or seminarians. Many good questions, mostly for clarification, were asked (this is unusual in the educational systems of Colombia).

On Tuesday, April 8, I went to George Müeller School, a K-12 school sponsored by El Pacto Church. It is located in the poorest neighborhood of the city of Barranquilla, “Las Américas”. The preacher at El Pacto Church is also the administrator of the school, which has 180 students in about eight classes. Many of the students come to the school because they cannot  afford to pay the tuition charged by the free public schools. Most of the teachers are members of the church, and those who are not go to other evangelical churches. I was presented to each class and spoke with the students, who seemed diligent, respectful, and faithful.

That evening, I returned with Ener Sanjuán to visit a Bible Study at El Pacto Church. It was interesting that we had to ask a number of taxi drivers until we could find one who would go into that neighborhood (and Carlos had warned us not to enter the neighborhood except by taxi). There were about 40 people at the Bible study, with only one small florescent light. We sang hymns and Psalms (mostly Psalms), with accompaniment by students from the school playing recorders. Carlos taught the study from a book published in Spanish in the Netherlands by Felire.

On Wednesday, April 9, Ener Sanjuán and I went to Cartagena, where we were met by Carlos and José Ríos. We attended a Bible study of the Emmaus mission, which is located in a middle class neighborhood of the city. Those present reflected that fact, and were the best educated of any of the churches or missions I visited. Among those present was Humberto, another of the students from San Agustín Seminary, which also conducts classes in Cartagena.

On Thursday, April 10, I attended the children´s Bible study at the mission work in San José de los Compuestos, the poorest neighborhood in Cartagena, where Wilmer Muñoz is the preacher. He is another seminarian from San Agustín. The neighborhood is (or, was until recently), an illegal settlement where people squatted in make-shift dwellings without permission. It is now in the process of being legally recognized by the government. There were about 40 children at the Bible study, and I preached from 1 John 3, and taught them to sing 1 John 3:1. I was well received by all, and the children were very well behaved and attentive, and expressed true faith in Christ.

We left Cartagena late in the evening, returning to Barranquilla. On Friday, April 11, Ener Sanjuán escorted me to the airport, from where I left to return to the United States, where I arrived early on the morning of April 12.

The works in Barranquilla and Cartagena, which number six in total, seem to be doing well, as are the other works in the other parts of the country. The church is still small, but seems to be developing in a proper direction. There is heavy reliance on San Agustín Seminary for their development, but that does not seem misplaced, since it is operated by the church through its presbytery. There is a constant stream of interest by other churches and individuals throughout Colombia. There seems to be a full and complete commitment to the reformed faith and a great zeal for evangelism.

Yours in Christ,

Stephen Larson

Reports on Visits to Latin America
Church of the Living Lord
of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Santa Ana, California