Zootown missionaries witness how God is transforming lives in Bogota, Colombia
An abandoned and empty lot in Santa Cecilia, a rough neighborhood in the north of Bogota, Colombia, may have seemed like nothing much to a bystander, but for husband and wife Ricardo and Lucy Rodriguez, it was to be the stomping grounds for a new hope. This impoverished neighborhood had little, but they saw the potential of what this plot of land could be: the start of a church, a new fellowship and a light that would spread throughout the community.
Lucy’s heart for the community grew when she met the children who frequented the lot. She brought them food and clothing. She saw that the children were in desperate need of love and even more apparent was their spiritual need. It was difficult for Lucy to sit back and watch these children go unnoticed, and so she prayed to God about what He had placed in her heart. There was no money, and the thought of building with no funds and no supplies seemed impossible. “If you want us to start something here, we will need a miracle,” she prayed.
Off the lot, Lucy continued her children’s ministry. She met with children and families in the streets and at local homes. Lucy did not give up hope of building and planting that church. Her dream for the people of Santa Cecilia was alive in her soul, and soon the Rodriguezes received a generous financial gift from an anonymous donor. With some funds and their willing hearts, they decided to take out a loan to begin building on the empty lot; their vision now had the potential to become a reality.
Soon thereafter, within the walls of the new structure, was a soup kitchen that served lunch to more than 500 people each day. God allowed them to meet more people and to spread the gospel through their love, Lucy says. With the soup kitchen off to a great start and church construction still under way, what seemed to have been impossible all started falling into place, but then the Rodriguezes encountered a setback. Word traveled that Ricardo and Lucy were sharing the gospel; due to this, the loan did not come through. “The government did not want us sharing God’s love with the people,” Lucy says. “Our soup kitchen had to stop serving.”
Efforts to give people an opportunity to know God were hindered and then local gangs began to threaten the Rodriguez family. They looked at this as a minor setback, holding firm to what God had led them to do and moving forward as they could. After four years of turmoil, the gangs’ threats subsided and they were able to return to their ministry without fear. Around this time, Ricardo received a vision he did not understand, but one he could not rest until complete. “I was supposed to be on vacation, but God told me to build trusses for the sanctuary,” says Ricardo. “I had no idea why, or how, because we did not have any money or supplies to build with.”
Even though it was difficult to understand at the time, the Rodriguezes remained faithful to their call. “I could not worry, God always provides for everything,” says Lucy. “And he did.” Soon, Lucy received a bonus check from her job that paid for the supplies Ricardo needed to start building the trusses. Still, not knowing exactly why he was given the vision in the first place, he set off to build the trusses for the sanctuary.
“I had no idea and did not understand why I was asked to start a project I could not finish,” he says. “But I did the will of God and only obeyed what he asked me to do.”
A few days later, Lucy called Ricardo with some amazing news. Someone from Inca Link, a non-profit organization that seeks to reach the 300 million youth in Latin America with Christ’s irresistible love, came to see what they were doing and then donated the funds to complete their project.
Nine years after Lucy received the vision to begin a church in this community, it has become a reality. Because a believing couple dedicated to the will of God decided to take their call seriously, the once-empty lot is now home to a church that welcomes those, particularly children, who are eager to learn the love of Christ. “We needed to be obedient to Christ, and trust He would never leave us,” says Lucy. “And because of that, we are seeing a neighborhood being transformed forever.”