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Why South America?

Some people ask us where we focus and why. Well, we have been to over 40 countries on many continents and bottom line we are looking to touch individuals who have an openness and  heart for the Gospel in any country or city. Right now we are working especially in South America. There are many factors that contribute to where we work and how long we stay there, both practically and subject to the Lord’s leading our lives.  When people think of South America they often think of the famous tourist places like Cartagena, Cusco, Ipanema, Patagonia, Angel falls, the Amazon..etc. So, many people have asked us “why South America”. While we hope to travel to Asia soon, But until then we have found tremendous need through out the countries of South America.

I had no idea before we went to South America and still am surprised to hear the stories the people come up and tell us of what they have been through. For example, one of the countries we have ministered in, was Colombia. While Colombia is rapidly improving in social, economic and other ways, the people there have suffered greatly from a internal war that has waged for more than 50 years between the FARC, the ULN and the Colombian Army. There have been millions of victims, effected at all levels by this conflict. We have come into a position where we can help people in many ways that is truly phenomenal. Working in schools and orphanages we have just be overwhelmed by reception for young people and children to learn and understand our message. As we travel to Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, we see many similar situations. While not necessarily on a national level, many cities, areas and even certain “high risk” neighborhoods suffer from terrible conflict, poverty and social unrest. For example, Brazil is an “up and coming, rather modern” nation, but behind the scenes in many places, it has a powerful drug and mafia war going on. This effects millions of youths and everyday people. Rio De Janeiro was on the list of the top ten most dangerous cities in the world in recent years.

Venezuela, being a like-Communist country is a very complex situation. Being in Caracass was an amazing experience on many levels. Extremely different from other places we have been to. And similar to countries like Bolivia and Ecuador are considered some of the poorest countries in the world in the rural areas and what we would call “low income neighborhoods”. We believe that part of our mission is to especially bring the gospel to the poor (Mt.11:5).

Below are a few news reports about Colombia that might help you understand a little more the previous and current condition and why we feel so compelled to do all we can to help these people. Please understand that I am not trying to exaggerate the conditions or “paint” any type of picture that is not accurate. Obviously people could visit the same country for tourist reasons and find a whole different side of things. As in any country (even Africa or Haiti), there are safe places to go, shopping malls, fancy restaurants and wonderful attractions, museums, or parks to see. My family and I make an effort to go into the worst barrios and most needy parts of any country, in addition to the general public, so our perspective  strictly comes from our efforts to help in those areas and bring the love and hope of the living Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ to those who need it most as is taught in the bible (Mt.11:5 and Mt.24:35 and following).

Excerpt from the United Nations: 

“Over the last fifty years, Colombia has been marked by an intractable and complex internal conflict that has consumed many lives and led to the displacement of millions of Colombians. The recurring patterns of violence include murder, torture, kidnappings of civilians and forced displacement. Thousands are without limbs from land mines that plague many parts of the nation. Unequal land distribution has been one of the root causes of conflict and displacement in Colombia. The country continues to be immersed in an internal conflict that affects all sectors of society.”

A country shattered by internal displacement and civil war

The extent to which the phenomenon of internal displacement affects the Colombian people is unmatched in the Americas. Nearly 10 per cent of the Colombian population has been forced to migrate within their own country. In 2010 alone, 280,000 people were newly displaced. Internal displacement is one of the main reasons why poverty levels – particularly in rural areas – have been constantly high.According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), nearly half the Colombian population lives below the national poverty line. Furthermore, 35 per cent of Colombians are forced to live on less than two US dollars a day and around 16 per cent eke out an existence in shacks. Living conditions in rural and urban areas of the country differ significantly: in rural areas, almost half the people lack access to potable water and proper sanitation.
There is little access to medical services and education. While in some bigger cities, the situation is notably better,  nearly one in five Colombians is still chronically malnourished. Although Colombia has seen significant economic growth in recent years, the income and wealth distribution remains highly unequal.
The armed conflict doesn’t exclude Colombia’s most vulnerable sections of society: young children and adolescents. At present, around 11,000 child soldiers are actively involved in Colombia’s internal conflict.
In Colombia, 820,000 children under the age of seventeen are orphaned. Many of them grow up without a family. They are thus vulnerable to recruitment by street-gangs in which drug abuse and high levels of violence rapidly become part of their everyday lives.
 At present, an estimated 30,000 Colombian children live on the street. They wash windshields at traffic lights, sell merchandise or collect reusable items on waste dumps. Roughly 10 per cent of all children aged 5-14 – particularly young boys – are engaged in different types of labour activities. Many of these young children are forced to work to earn money for an entire family. The majority of them do not go to school.”
This next is an article printed in 99′ which obviously is outdated, but gives an idea what the country has been through. As stated above, many of the condition and effects of such conflict still remain for millions through out Colombia. 

Caught in a prolonged civil war, 835,000 people have been forced from their
homes since 1995.
The Colombian Civil War

Turbo, Colombia — The biggest humanitatian crisis in the Western Hemisphere
is occurring in the dark recesses of Colombia, barely three hours’ flight
from South Florida.

In dramatically increasing numbers, poor civilians caught in the vise of a
prolonged civil war have been torn from rural homes and sent fleeing.

Last year alone, 308,000 people were uprooted. Since early 1995, the numbers
is estimated at 835,000 colombians. They are anonymous, poor, jobless and
deathly afraid.
Most have remained within Colombia’s borders, and cannot be called refugees.
They are known simply as “internally displaced people,” a bureaucratic
euphemism that fails to hide the tragedy that has enveloped them and the
empty lives they face.

On a soudden day recently, officials from the United Nations flew to the
poor, banana-growing region of northwestern Colombia to visit a makeshift
camp where several hundred uprooted people heve been obliged to make home.
One by one, a look of dismay, even shock, crossed their faces. Perhaps it
was the children playing in the running sewage. Or the hacking coughs
echoing through the camp. Or the telltale signs of malnutrition.

“This is like something out of Africa,” said Leila Lima, a delegate in
Colombia for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

“This is appalling. It really is,” added Olara A. Otunnu, a Ugandan who is
U.N. undersecratary general for child victims of armed conflicts around the
world. “There are no water facilities at all… The conditions are very
The situation promises to become worse as tens of thousands of frihtened
Colombians are forced to pick up and move each month. The exodus is
occurring in various parts of the country, out of the range of television
camaras, but experts compare it to better-known crises like the one in

“Is what’s happening to Kosovo so dramatically different than what’s
happening in Colombia? Not really,” said Hiram Ruiz of the US Committee for
Refugees, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. “Kosovo is
sudden, dramatic, and the whole world is watching because of the military
action. But you hear the same kind of horror stories you hear out of