It is Wednesday night in Cali. We drive down crowded streets. Two lanes accommodate three vehicles. Automobiles, bicycles, and a swarm of motorcycles all vie for space. More than once we pass a horse-drawn cart loaded with people and piled high with giant bags. One can only guess their contents. Driving in Cali is like racing at the Indy 500. It is not for the faint of heart. The hectic pace of major traffic gives way to the sights and sounds of little neighborhoods. Think "concrete beehives" and you can begin to get a feel for how closely these homes are situated. All are individually gated and barred. This is essential to protect people and possessions. Yesterday I watched as one owner drove her motorcycle inside her little home.
The roads are full of potholes. Sidewalks are often "under construction." Little businesses line the streets, people sit inside and spill outside the homes. There are no screens on windows, air conditioning is a luxury enjoyed by very few. It is warm and muggy. This is not a Norman Rockwell setting.
We climb out of our car on the left side (the right door does not work) and enter "the church." It is the bottom floor of a two-story home that belongs to a church member who lives upstairs with his family. The room is long and narrow. Walls have been removed to create more space. Plastic seats fill the room. Six chairs side-by-side will stretch from one side of the room to the other. One chair has been removed from each row to create an aisle. The room is clean, but not carpeted. Fans send soft breezes to fight the heat.
The room is sparse, but there is joy aplenty! This is the church! You sense it once the people walk in. This is the church! There is no missing it once the singing starts. This is the church! There is no avoiding it once the hugs and kisses come. This is the church! These people are hungry for God's word. They patiently and attentively listen through my interpreter. This is the church! They walk in as individuals; they walk out as family. This is the church!
God is building his church in Cali, Colombia -- the former drug capital of the world. But we should not be surprises. Jesus promised he would and Jesus always keeps his promises.
And Jesus answered him . . . I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
The church is not buildings, but people! People who are being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. People who are united in loving God and loving people. People who are taking the gospel to the noisy streets and neighborhoods of Cali and a thousand other places. This is the church!
MY PRAYER: Thank you, Lord! You are building your church.