From the moment our plane took off in Medellín for Apartadó and I heard the cheeping of the little chicks in the cargo hold, I knew that we were on our way to a different reality. Urabá is far more rural and less developed than the other presbyteries. The heat and humidity are unrelenting, and air conditioning is uncommon.
The tropical climate brings frequent downpours in the “winter” season, and the roads that remain unpaved (which are many) are often muddy. The swift changes from hot sun to breezy rain result in frequent illness. The prevalence of toxins from the vast plantations of banana and plantain also contribute to illness in the local population.
I arrived in Apartadó on Tuesday afternoon. After a brief meeting with members of the presbytery council where we outlined the schedule for my visit, I was taken to the home of my host for these days in Apartadó. Her home is still in the development stage, unfinished, but very open and hospitable. This pastoral visit has already been filled with opportunities to preach and share in prayer services, more than I was expecting!
On Thursday I spent the morning with the children in the Colegio Americano. We started with a long time for conversation with the oldest ones, and they asked me questions about life in the U.S.—everything from global warming to gun violence to education and fast food. It was fascinating to see what they have learned about the U.S. and what concerns are on their minds. Their dismay about the ease of gun purchases in the U.S. became especially significant to me a few weeks later, when I attended the Stony Point peacemaking colloquium on gun violence and gospel values and had the connection between guns and drugs brought home in very clear terms. How tragic that most folks in our churches have little concern about the prevalence of guns in our society, while these fourth- and fifth-grade students in rural Colombia, whose lives have been closely touched by gun violence, are worried about gun sales in the United States.