United in Purpose

 In Community Development, Humanitarian Aid, Rehabilitation Programs, Volunteer Team

By: Andrew C. | United Church/Excel

I’ve been working with Ciudad Refugio since 2014. Through the years, I’ve witnessed their outpouring of love as the hands and feet of Jesus in the streets and hillsides of Medellin. The destitute, deserted, and downtrodden have all found a home at the City of Refuge.

But they aren’t the only ones.

Ciudad Refugio takes in missionaries and volunteers from all over the world and practically imparts what it looks like to listen to the voice of the Spirit and follow the way of Jesus. I’m one of the many that have learned from them over the years.

That’s why, in 2017, when I came to United Church and the ministry that is now called Excel, I was determined to get our participants involved in Colombia. I wanted them to learn from the best how to pour your life out for the benefit of those around them. At Excel, we are dedicated to fostering human flourishing, and we believe in the maturation and discipleship of the spiritual, emotional, physical and professional aspects of a person.

That’s one of the reasons we love Ciudad Refugio so much. Their leaders have a heart to serve and a plan to multiply, and have greatly increased their influence in Medellin simply by being a practical blessing, meeting felt needs. Over the years, our teams have experienced God in new and exciting ways through ministering to the homeless at Agua Panela, delivering food and hope to refugees in Manantiales, and building friendships through the men’s and women’s rehabilitation programs. But perhaps the biggest impact on our teams has been returning and seeing the life transformation that has taken place in people like Yeyson, who were once in rehab but are now leaders in the church and community – happy, healthy, and whole. Our guys have been so encouraged and impacted by seeing what Holy Spirit can do in someone’s life.

We became supporters of Ciudad Refugio in 2018 out of an overflow of love and a firm belief that the Kingdom is advancing through their work. We’ve supported through giving, prayer, and team trips each year, and the plan was to do the same in 2020.

But things changed when COVID-19 mangled the economy of Medellin, further devastating an already struggling population of displaced Colombians and Venezuelans.

We were in the middle of fundraising for another visit in September and October, with over 25 people preparing to travel to Medellin, our biggest trip yet. But as we began preparing, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit and a question arise in my heart that I couldn’t shake – “are we really doing our best to serve the people of Medellin by fundraising for a mission trip while so many are on the verge of homelessness and extremely food insecure?”

Don’t get me wrong – we believe in mission trips and the power of human connection and the God encounters that come along with them. And there’s a time and a place for them. We believe as much in the relationships built as we do in the felt needs met.

But after much prayer and wrestle, we came to the conclusion that this year, the best way to come alongside our friends at the City of Refuge would be to forgo our trip and direct the fundraising that would have gone to our Medellin travels straight to their COVID relief efforts. They’ve done what Christians from ancient Rome to modern day Syria have all done – ran to the front lines of crisis to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.

While businesses and governments are shutting down, the light of the Kingdom is pushing farther into the darkness, entering previously unopen neighborhoods and reaching previously closed off peoples with the power of love.

Our team is sending around $2500/mo to support the effort to provide grocery bags, open an emergency women’s shelter, and provide relief to the neighborhoods around the City of Refuge and up in the mountains. Are we sad to miss our trip this year? For sure. But we believe a life-giving, committed relationship is willing to do sacrifice for the sake of the other, and we look forward to following Ciudad Refugio’s lead in this for years to come!

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