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Eight from Heritage College and Seminary to work with Columbian churches
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By Catherine Freeman

On May 7, our team will be travelling to Medellin, Colombia to work with the El Redil churches and to participate in their ministries, including teaching English, hosting youth retreats and running children's programs.

Our supporting mission agency, The Fellowship of Baptist Churches, began in 1953 and the first Fellowship International missionaries to Colombia went in the early 1970s. Don Whiteside, the first Fellowship missionary in the country, along with his family lived there and began a Bible study in the city of Medellin. Slowly this community grew, as one church planted another church and then another church. Today there are six El Redil churches who are planting daughter churches and who are preparing to send their own missionaries out into Colombia and abroad. As the Fellowship prepares to retire their missionaries home from the field, fifty years of work is coming to fruition — the El Redil churches are entirely self-sufficient and are working to send their people out into the world to bring the light of Christ to those living in darkness.

For our team, the number one objective is to encourage the churches and the believers in Colombia, especially as they begin to send out their own missionaries. We are there to foster relationships and to assist ministries that are already up and running.

The actual team is a group of eight college students from Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge who are in a one year certificate program with a focus on missions. This trip is the practicum portion of the program where they will be able to apply their knowledge and skills relating to cross-cultural missions. The leadership of the team includes a peer leader who is a Heritage College alumnus and participated in the program last year when they also went to Medellin, Colombia. Here is what some of the students had to say about their involvement in the mission:

"During this missions trip I am not really sure what to expect as God is so powerful and even what I can imagine in my wildest dreams, God exceeds them. However, I do know that God will be working in the El Redil churches in amazing ways as well as in the people of Colombia. Not only will God be working in the lives of the people in Colombia, but He will more definitely be working in our lives too. I know that every member on the team is going to be faced with some difficulties while on the trip, but the beautiful thing about it is God will use us despite our flaws. I fully expect God to push us in ways in which we have never felt before and I am hoping and praying that we will be open to God's healthy poking and prodding." — Katelynn Popma

"I came to Heritage looking for guidance and direction from God and that's just what He has done! He led me to this trip and I have a sense of peace as I feel that I am following His leading. I am getting really excited for this opportunity to serve and to learn. I expect that God will stretch us and put us in roles that we may not think we are capable of. I hope that we will learn a lot about ourselves and gain confidence in who God made us and who He is molding us to be. I hope to see God work in powerful ways and to learn a lot from the Colombian people." — Nick Bateman

"I am so excited to see all that God has been doing in and through the El Redil churches of Medellin. It has been in our team's prayer that God will continue to work in the hearts of the people that we will encounter; that he would open their hearts to the realization that Jesus is Lord. In that, we ask God to use us while we are there, whether it is encouraging the churches or planting seeds of hope in the lives of the Colombians. Either way, it is our goal to serve with joy and to point others to Christ in all that we do. It is very important for us to remember that we are there to learn and grow in the Lord as much as we are there to serve. As I have been learning, it would be ignorant to assume that we are there to "help" the Colombians because they cannot help themselves. Those in Colombia are equally qualified to teach and spread the Gospel. Therefore, our job while we are in Colombia is to build relationships and encourage those who have been doing the Lord's work for some time now. Please continue to pray for our team and the people of Colombia as we prepare for this experience." — Melissa Haines

Since Colombia is a Spanish-speaking country, part of our preparation over the course of the last seven months has included some rudimentary Spanish lessons. No one will, of course, be anywhere near fluent by the time we leave for Colombia, but hopefully we will be able to get by.

As for staying in contact with friends and family here in Canada, we will have internet access for most of the trip, but it will be used minimally so as to maximize the time spent building friendships and encouraging the Colombians we have gone to work with. Each team member will probably be sending out email/Facebook updates, depending on their preference.

There is also a team blog that will be updated throughout the rest of our prep time as well while we are away. If you would like to track our progress more closely we invite you to visit www.offtosouthamerica.wordpress.com to learn more. This website has more information about the team, the specifics of the trip, what we're going to be doing in South America, the churches we’ll be working with and the things you can be praying about.