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Archive for December, 2015

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As I gaze at this photograph that I took by the Caribbean Sea in Cartagena; a piece of insightful writing by my spiritual mentor comes to my mind:

“Christmas is here, signalling the end of the year but also heralding the beginning of the new year. Perhaps this is the significance of the Christmas season — that because Christ has come, therefore we can now have an end to our old life and a beginning of our new life.”

What a profound Christmas reflection indeed!

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Traditional Food of Medellin

IMG_1778The above  delicacy is a 6-inch  pizza adorned with  chunky chicharrón (Colombia-style fried pork belly), sausage, beans and guacamole, it is deliciously tasty.  

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Our team had tried many delicious meals in Medellin  and two of my favorite dishes were Sancocho and Bandeja paisa which happened to be the traditional meals of Medellin.

On our last day at the church, one family prepared this hearty traditional soup dish, sancocho, for our lunch.

The steaming clear bowl of savory soup was aromatic and flavorful and it is cooked with some meat stock and vegetable roots.

It consists of a big chunk of beef brisket, plantains, maize, potatoes and yucca, and is eaten with a side dish of rice and avocado.

This delicious soup tastes best when garnished chopped cilantro and lemon juice.

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Another of my favorite is Bandeja Paisa, the national dish of Colombia.

Bandeja means “platter or tray”; and Paisa refers to “the people from the region in northwest Colombia”.

The “platter of paisa”, a sumptuous meal, is served on a plate with rice, chorizo sausage, fried egg, plantain, ground roast beef, corn bread, salad, avocado, and a long stripe of deep fried pork belly called  chicharrón.  The dish also comes with a bowl of mixed beans and potato soup.

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The most appetizing part of this dish is definitely the chicharrón (the long cracking, crispy, chunky strip of 1-inch thick bacon).

Whenever we had this dish, one strip of the thick fried, fatty and oily pork belly was not enough for me, but my team members loved to share their portions with me as they were not into this super fatty deep fried delicacy!

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At the leadership retreat by the country side, I had the first hand experience to observe how this national dish was prepared.

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It was an extremely time consuming dish to prepare for the belly!!

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roast beef ready to be shredded

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silken and creamy avocado

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delicious deep-fried platain

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Let’s dig in!

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Buen provecho!

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Another sweet treat  of Colombia is the crispy oblea and arequipe spread.

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Obleas – are thin slices of circular wafers;
Arequipe – dulce de leche, creamy caramel cooked from condense milk & sugar.
Our host was able to order 20 packets of freshly baked Obleas and packaged Arequipe for me to bring home to share with friends and family, and my Sunday School Children!
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This traditional treat can often be purchased at a street vendor.
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A Place of Shelter

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Christmas sure comes early this year for me as I had this rare opportunity to visit Colombia this past November.

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Our team went to Colombia and partnered with El Redil Church to set up a new worship center in the district of Laureles.

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Over the past twenty years, the ministry team at El Redil has set up 10 evangelical churches in the city of Medellin.

“El Redil” in Spanish means “The sheepfold” — A sheepfold is a safe shelter or dwelling place for sheep.

“El Redil” ministry is based on John 10 where Jesus said that He is the Great Shepherd who loves us and lays down His life for us.

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The Fold, that we helped establish this time is the 10th church; and a church is usually defined as a group of believers gather together to worship the Living God and to make Him known.

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After the last splash of paint, the old building completed its face-lift, and transformed into an homey place.

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We also facilitated conversational English classes at the new church building which attracted around 80 professionals and university students to come for a fun time of language learning.

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Those who normally do not attend a church worship service were invited to connect with the new church family so that they can make El Redil de Laureles a place of shelter to experience the living God.

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One weekend, we were invited to take part in the Family Leadership Retreat hosted by the El Redil ministry. One of the relatives generously sheltered us for a get-away at their country home.

Morning exercise

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Communal Worship Dance

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Team building games

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Servant leadership

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Gospel sharing using Lego pieces on placing our faith in Jesus.

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One evening, we participated in a Praise Parade from another El Redil branch churches, Inglesia El Redil De Sur.

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Since it was near Christmas, the parade is all about Christ Jesus. On that day, we wore neon color of orange and green t-shirt that declared “It’s Jesus”; and the balloons proclaimed “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life”.  

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Many biked, some traveled on wheelchairs and the rest of us walked. We went around the block and busy streets praising God, with policemen escorting us and directing the traffic.

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Along the way, we gave out flyers to invite people to check out the church.

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After the parade, we stopped by a bustling park where the pastor commissioned his flocks to reach out and invite the people at the park on how they can be a part of the church and find hope in Christ.

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When this church first started 4 years ago at the mall, there were only 10 families; Now the church people have over 400 members and they still meet and worship at the shopping mall.

¿cómo crezco en esta iglesia: How do I grow in this church?

#1 Asisto: to attend

#2 Conozco: to know

#3 Aprendo: to learn

#4 Pertenezco: to belong

#5 Sirvo: to serve

Groupos De conexión: Group connection

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Gingerbread Gospel

Gingerbread Village at the Grouse Mountain!

It is well known that the concept of the gingerbread house originated from the sugar candy cottage in the Hansel and Gretel fable.

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However, I had never heard about the Gingerbread Gospel until I was asked to be the judge for the best gingerbread decorating contest in one of the Sunday School classes.

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When the children were decorating their fantasy dream snow cottage with lots of icing and candies, their teachers led them to reflect on the special homes of King Jesus:

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Heaven: Jesus’s first home, and what a perfect home.
Hut: Jesus’s earthly home in the stable.
Heart: Jesus longs to dwell in our hearts & to have a personal relationship with us.

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What a delightful and creative  approach to decorate the sugar candy cottage and be reminded of  the assurance of heaven and spending eternity with Jesus.

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Let’s celebrate!

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Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay;
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care;
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

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A friend of mine was preaching the past Sunday and illustrated on the sweet family time together building the gingerbread house… reflecting on how our Heavenly Father intends to have a relationship with us in everything we do, although we claim that we are the ones that are doing the work, in fact it’s Father God who does it.

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Later, his friend used the picture and sketched the following cute picture of daddy & his two dolls decorating the sugar candy cottage!!

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Car doors need love too

3 words

Three words that manage to

 

open doors and softened hearts

 

“Sorry” “Please” & “Thank you”

 

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It may seem easy enough to have proper etiquette when riding on a taxi.

This was not the case in traffic congested Medellin.

We were reminded many times to be extremely careful not to slam the car door.

The doors are very light compared to the ones in North America — where I need to use my entire body strength to make sure the car door is closed properly.

Our team had several car slamming incidents while travelling in Medellin that totally stunned the stressful drivers.

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One time our team member got in the car and closed the car door tight without being aware that she was slamming the door.

The taxi driver looked at her and said in Spanish and pointing at the door; my friend thought the driver was telling her that the door wasn’t close tight enough, so she open the door and slammed it harder with a loud bang.

It left the driver totally speechless and raising his hand up in the air with frustration and helplessness. Only then did my friend realized she had fail the closing door etiquette.

She quickly said sorry x300 to the driver and they looked at each other and broke out into laughter.

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Because of our door slamming habit, whenever we were about to get in or out of the car, the local drivers that we knew would beg us: “Please… do it with love” when we were about to close their car doors.

I have been trained well; so when I came back from Medellin, I tried to close the car door as gently as possible for I remember that car doors need love too.

One evening after a friend dropped me off, I tried to shut her car as gently as possible.

After several attempts, the car door just won’t close, so my friend yelled at me: “Will ‘ya please just slam the door”!!

And I was… stunned!

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The winding road leading up  to the mountain village was very narrow and steep but our fabulous translator , also a seminary student, has no problem cruising us by with his sole transportation up and down the narrow lane.

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The bus driver could only drive us two thirds up the mountain;

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then we had to hike up the rest of the way until we reached the mountain village

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to lead a 3-day children’s Bible camp.

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“Go tell it on the mountain, over the hill and everywhere that…

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Jesus is our Soul-mate (best friend);
Jesus is our Strength;
Jesus is our Savior.

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The interactive biblical lessons were told through songs, puppet shows, science experiments, skits, bible verses and creative arts & craft; we are thankful to a wonderful team leaders who did the Spanish translation.

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The vibrant children were very intrigued and responded to the bible lessons with enthusiasm.

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Many were able to retell the stories verbatim to their peers.

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The children here have experienced genuine care and love by their leaders at their weekly Kids Club; and many of them have already put their faith in Jesus and enjoy worshiping the Living God wholeheartedly.

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Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

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Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere… that Jesus Christ is Lord!

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Merry and Bright

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Medellin is famous for its Festival of Lights display during the Christmas holidays.

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We had a merry night out enjoying the bright lights that illuminated the city streets and parks.

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The colourful lights that adorned the whole city of Medellin reminded me of that One Holy Night —

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the glorious beams from the heavenly hosts that shone on the shepherds in the field (Luke 2)
and the special bright star of Bethlehem that the wise men followed (Matthew 2)

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— they all point towards the Great Light — Jesus — who is the Light of the world.

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Jesus replies: “I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

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One of the most inviting and friendly Christmas decorations ought to be the Christmas wreath.

Wreath is usually act as a sign of welcoming, as can be seen adorning the entrance of most doors during the Christmas season.

The shape of wreath is circular and often symbolizes unity and eternity; it can also represents peace and victory, as well as a symbol of remembrance.

Since Christmas is round the corner, we opted to make this simple wreath and decorated it with the core of a Christmas message.

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The symbol of the Bible is to remind us that we need to read the word of God and hear God speaking to us.

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The shape of the sun/star reminds us that God is the Creator of the universe and that we need to thank Him for the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.

Genesis Spanish Bible Quotes and Vesre images

The torn heart represents broken relationship and sadness which caused us to reflect how we have sinned against God were separated from God.

The powerful sign of the cross points us to Jesus who is the Savior born on Christmas Day; He is the only one who can mend our broken heart and restores our broken relationship with God.

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The whole heart expresses the sacrificial love that God has for us; When we place our lives and faith in Jesus, we can have a meaningful and enriching relationship with the eternal God.

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Through this joyful and interactive time of making this cheerful Christmas craft, all of us have a greater appreciation of this loving God who is also our Heavenly Father from the Lord’s prayer.

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Guatapé Escapade

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During our first long weekend in Colombia, our host brought us outskirt on a visit to an idyllic town called Guatape.

All I heard was that we were going to climb a big rock, and I got so excited as I love adventure of any kind!

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As we approached the place, we were greeted by this distinctive and gigantic boulder in the midst of a lush and green rolling hills.

Many people visit Guatape to climb this rock known as El Penol de Guatape.

At first, I didn’t find the rock appealing because to me, it looks mystical and resembles a massive mammoth.

There is no natural trail to hike up the rock, instead we were ushered to a study man-made stairway which someone commented it’s “stairway to heaven”.

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The narrow stairway was a great way to test my fitness level; I had to catch my breath every ten steps.

As I stepped into the steep spiral staircase, I also felt like I was on a pilgrimage journey heading up to a monastery.

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While I caught my breath, I took time to enjoy the peaceful picturesque lake view and its waterfront vacation homes surrounding the reservoir below.

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We were told that the land below used to be a farmland and in the early 70s, the government flooded the old town and transformed the massive land into a reservoir to build a dam to generate hydro-electricity for the nearby cities.

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On weekends, many city dwellers would escape the hustle and bustle of city life and come soaking in the serene countryside.

Whether one is up on top of the world or down at the platform, the view of the lake and surrounding area is just as scenic; since the path meandering up to the parking lot at the foot of the big rock is high in elevation for tourists to enjoy the vista.

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After a satisfying lunch, we strolled along the cobble streets and marveled at the funky and colorfully mismatched town of Guatape.

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We also explored and tasted some of the local goodies at the food vendors along the the lively promenade.

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It was a great Guatape Escapade experiencing some of the local culture and people in this quintessential town.

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Simply Soursop

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I grew up eating soursop as it is a common fruit from where I used to dwell.

These days soursop has been a rare commodity even from the region where I live.

When I was in Colombia recently, I was spoiled with a feast of soupsop.

Most of my team members had never tried the fruit so when they tried it, they were not accustomed to the tangy and sweet flavour of this tropical fruit (an acquired taste), hence most of this delightful fruit was left for me to gorge on.

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When the locals knew that I enjoy eating the fruit, which is also known as guanabana (pronounced as guanavana), they suggested I should taste this exotic fruit with milk.

So whenever I was at a cafe, without fail, I would order myself a thirst quenching glass of fresh soursop smoothie and it was indeed delicious!

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However nothing beats the one that I had from the street vendor:
One fine morning, while rushing to take a metro train, I bumped into a street vendor that sold soursop drink. I hesitated to buy the drink or not (for street food might cause me tummy bugs); I couldn’t resist but bought myself a cup of this icy and juicy soursop drink. It even has the slimy fruit pulp in it; it was simply the most delicioso guanabana drink I had for a long time!

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