I ate lunch in a cloud this week. You heard that right, I actually took a cable car to the top of the Monserrate Mountain in Bogota and ate lunch in a restaurant that was so high up, it was actually surrounded by a cloud. Normally, I am not too good with heights, but taking the advice of a friend, I stared at the mountain as the cable car took us to the top and let my wife take pictures of the city as we came back down. This experience typified my time in Bogota this past weekend. It was short, memorable and almost did not seem real.
Deb and I came to Bogota to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the CLC ministry in this strategic country. The celebration dinner was an elegant affair on the 30th floor of a hotel with an amazing view of the city that surrounded us. Three hundred and fifty guests came to join the local CLC team in praising God for his faithfulness and to enjoy a wonderful dinner together. It as a birthday party that I will never forget and a far cry from the humble beginnings of this significant work of God.
In the 1970’s WEC International had a small book room at the headquarters in Bogota. The team leader put an unassuming young man named David in charge of helping the few customers that would stop by from time to time while he was out of the country. David quickly realized that he had a problem. He had to keep stopping what he was doing to help people get in and out of the book room as interest in this small selection of Spanish books was growing. Ever the enterprising young person, he quickly noticed an unused garage location on the front of the property that could be converted into a store front. After some prayer and persuasion, the WEC team allowed this new space to be used for new purpose and a new ministry was born.
By 1976, the bookstore work had grown to three locations around the city and was growing faster than WEC had expected. They encouraged David Peacock to discuss this with Ken Adams, the founder of CLC and solution was arrived at quickly. These bookstores would become a part of the CLC International family and a new CLC country would be added to map. David and his wife Bonnie, switched teams and became CLC missionaries with the mandate to help establish and grow this work. As of this was not enough to keep David busy, he had simultaneously been starting a new printing ministry called Buenas Semilla (the Good Seed). CLC encouraged his entrepreneurial spirit and allowed him to wear two hats for many years.
Today, the work of Buenas Semilla and CLC Colombia is remarkable to behold. Both of the them have grown significantly over the years. Buenas Semilla is the leading Christian printing ministry in Colombia with huge printing presses and thousands of books being printed each week. CLC has thirteen bookstores, a major book distribution warehouse, a growing publishing operation and a recently developed social foundation. It is fair to say that these two ministries are leading the way for Christian book distribution in the entire country and beyond.
Any successful ministry can be evaluated by the numbers it produces. How many people are coming to faith or growing in their faith as a result of this particular work? In the case of CLC Colombia that number is in the tens of thousands and growing. Not only is their local work expanding, but they have helped to start the CLC ministry in Panama, Ecuador, and Mexico. But numbers can become dry statistics. Today I saw some of the results with my very own eyes.
In a country that had very few seminary trained pastors, I was able to attend a church that is just about as old as the CLC ministry in Colombia. After the preaching two middle aged men came forward to be baptized. One of them is the father of a missionary couple sponsored by the church. This church is mature and thriving and it is one of many across the city that God is blessing. Forty years ago, evangelicals were a small part of the population and experienced suffering and persecution. Today, many self-educated pastors whose only training was the books available at CLC have led a revolution of gospel impact. Evangelicals are so important to the future of Colombia that they are impacting the voting on new laws that are being developed. To God be the Glory for great things he has done.