Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Later that week we decided to head out into the outlying areas of Medellin. The hills surrounding the city were where the poor, widows, and orphans lived. We were told by the Colombian Pastor Daniel that the neighborhood we were going to was where the Colombian cartels would recruit kids to train as assassins for their cause. We walked around the neighborhood inviting the numerous young kids and mothers to come to an event later that day. Again, most of those living in the neighborhood had never met anyone from the United States. That novelty was what attracted much of the neighborhood as we walked down dirt roads and through narrow alleyways to greet and invite everyone we could find. We were met with joy as we knocked upon doors opened to strangers.
As the time for the event drew close the streets filled up. There had to have been over a hundred of mostly women and children outside. The atmosphere was fair-like as we played worship and Pastor Dave read a gospel story to the kids. This felt like church! Picture the scene of kids surrounding an adult reading a book at a library. Now picture a sea of kids sitting in the dirt street around a tall white guy with a pony tail reading a book through a translator and you get an idea of the experience. The thought that some of these kids would grow to give their lives and souls to the cartel was heartbreaking. However, in that moment they all had smiles on their faces listening to Dave’s words from a book translated to them. We had a wonderful time hanging out with them.
As the sun made its gradual descent a curious thing happened. Like a light switch that’s moved from on to off, the street went from crowded and excited to empty and silent seemingly instantaneously. All the locals disappeared and the team was left standing there in the street, alone. An electric-type tension rose in those left behind as we sat there abandoned. The feeling you get right before a thunder storm as you sense the static electricity in the air. Uneasiness for no apparent reason. The ominous approach of some unseen predator as if we were being stalked. The hair on my neck stood up as the potential of the moment slowly came into focus and the weight of needed action was felt. Pastor Daniel rushed us into a nearby house as quickly as he could, shut the door, and asked us to be silent. You could tell that he was trying to keep calm as he moved, very quickly and deliberately, to the phone to call taxis up to the neighborhood to take us back to his house. None would agree to come get us.
We huddled in a very small space praying for taxis to come to our rescue. Small talk picked up as we attempted to take our minds off the question that invaded all of our thoughts, “Would someone come to take us home?” Ironic that the “safe place” we all prayed for was the gated and barred house that someone had been killed outside of the night we arrived. Daniel’s house in the center of the city seemed like a fortress compared to the house we huddled in. As is usual in most tense situations someone tried to get a laugh out of the room to ease the tension. It worked in bringing temporary relief like the ebbing of the tide only to watch the next swell of fear and concern invade the room as the waves came back in. The situation seemed dire. Knowing that God had been with us up to that point was an anchor on which to rest our hope. We trusted that He had already gone before us and anxiously awaited the way in which He would show Himself faithful again. Please get us home safe, Lord.
Later we would come to find out that someone had informed either the cartel or the guerilla fighters that “Americans” were up in the neighborhood and ripe for abduction. Abduction of foreign nationals was big business to these groups and people were often held for ransom money to fund drugs or wars. Rumor had it we were their next targets.
Pastor Daniel was able to convince a group of taxis to come get us all off the hill with the financial blessing of Pastor Dave. I’m sure those taxi drivers were paid handsomely for their services. The exuberant fee Dave paid was probably still less than a taxi would cost here in the States. The cars quickly pulled up and slowed long enough for us to run from the house and dive in, never coming to a complete stop. Before we knew what was happening we were accelerating down the hill back toward the city at far too quick a speed for the rough and narrow roads being navigated. It seemed very plausible that we would survive abduction only to be killed in a car accident. Again, by God’s grace, we soon found ourselves back in Medellin proper and on our way home for the night.