I received e-mails from two of my sisters last week that brought me to tears in my cubicle at work. Both recount conversations regarding my father, who was a missionary in Colombia from 1960 to 1994. The conversations occurred the same week, one in Chicago and one in Medellín.
My sister Mary Beth recently made a trip to our former home in San Cristóbal, a community on the outskirts of Medellín. The house, which my father called Casa Shalom, is now a home for nearly a hundred elderly folks who have been rescued from life on the streets. Mary Beth is developing a sponsorship program for the home’s residents. While there, she attended a church that meets in a former billiards hall in the town plaza. Here is part of Mary Beth’s anecdote:
I was able to approach the head pastor of the church, Ernesto B, at the end of the service, and delivered a pastoral letter of commendation which Dave graciously composed. As we talked, I explained why I was in San Cristóbal, my history in the town, and what I was doing while I was there, and suddenly Ernesto asked me, “Are you Paul G’s daughter?” I said that I was and asked if he had met him. He replied with a big smile that the first 3 years that he was a Christian he had been discipled by Paul G, and that he attended his little church in the city in those years.
The world is a small place, and sometimes we are graced with the opportunity to tie together the fraying ends of our ropes, to see God’s continued work in the places and the people that we left behind. And sometimes we are called back to the place where we started and we are able to see it again for the first time.
Here is my sister Ruth’s response:
Just like your story of talking with Pastor Ernesto: yesterday I took a Colombian YWAM couple to breakfast–they were doing a US road trip as an extended honeymoon. Paulo grew up in Puerto Asís [where we lived from 1962-1967] and was very touched to realize that I’m a daughter of Paul G. He is the son of Cecilia L, whom you and Martha may remember from the night of Claire’s DTS graduation back in 2012. His father was an American in the Peace Corps, not married to his mom, who was not a believer at the time. But she later married a Christian man and they had more children and were involved in the Christian & Missionary Alliance church in Puerto Asís. Paulo does remember visiting the “Hermanos Libres” church once, in the little chapel that Dad built.
When he moved to Bogotá to continue his studies, he became connected to YWAM. He moved to Medellín and helped to launch the YWAM and King’s Kids there, along with Jorge, the current director of training (who is from Pasto [where we lived 1960-1962]). His stepfather was killed by the FARC, so his mom and sibs fled to Medellín too.
At one point finances were especially bad and he was deeply discouraged, thinking about leaving the ministry out of necessity. But he went to a monthly pastors’ prayer meeting, and there was a guest speaker who talked about his early experience in missions, bringing his young family to Colombia, landing in Cali, feeling dismayed by the lack of development, having to live by faith month to month because of no set salary. It was Dad. Paulo was immensely encouraged by Dad’s story. He hadn’t known others in ministry who lived in George Mueller style, believing that God would supply day by day. So it is partly because of Dad that Paulo has remained in the ministry. He currently heads up YWAM’s CentroCom, which teaches graphic design, photography, and videography, and (among other things) produces short videos for TV broadcast on healthy family values.
He remembers Dad’s book and was very excited when I told him I could get him a copy of the 2nd edition.