When I was in the UK last autumn, speaking at meetings in churches,

I sometimes showed a photo of my colleagues – three young men –

and said something like this: I love my colleagues,

but sometimes it’s a bit lonely being the only woman.

So maybe you would like to pray for a female colleague to join me.


After being back in the office for a few months

I told the three young men what I had said when I was in Scotland,

and added, But now I regret it because actually,

I quite like being the only woman.


Well, today is a big day in the project, because we will be welcoming

a part-time administrative assistant – a woman.


If you prayed for her, thank you!

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Only in Colombia


Last week, John Jairo Velásquez, alias Popeye, was released from prison

after serving 22 years of a 30 year jail sentence for hundreds of murders

he committed while working for Pablo Escobar.


A day or two after his release, two armed men turned up at a house in Medellín

behind the one where Pablo Escobar died in 1993,

threatened the owner and proceeded to dig a hole,

all the time talking on mobile phones. They told whomever they were talking to

that they found nothing, and left.


Conspiracy theories abound.

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Behind me in the queue for my Juan Valdéz decaf latte


…was a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word Edinburgh.


That’s my home town, I exclaimed, excitedly, and, of course,

being Colombian, the guy answered warmly and courteously.

He was a doctor and had been in Edinburgh for a medical conference in June.

We agreed that Edinburgh was beautiful but that Medellín was very nice too,

although very different. We each said it had been a pleasure to meet the other,

and thus we parted.

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Encounter with an icon


When I was in San Marcos (see Tuesday’s post)

I got the chance to visit the Tree of Guacarí,

an extraordinary natural wonder that features on Colombia’s

500 peso piece. This tree looks impressive enough from a distance

but when you walk under its branches you enter

a dimly-lit wonderland of hanging roots.

It reminded me so much of the Lord of the Rings

that I almost expected the tree to start talking to me.


If you are ever in the area (!) make sure you see it.

A child will come and charge you £1 for having visited

but it is worth being ripped off

to see one of Colombia’s great natural treasures.

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6 miillion people


Last week I attended a two-day congress organized jointly by

the Bible Seminary of Colombia and Fuller Seminary

entitled “Migration, exile, displacement and violence”.


It was very interesting, if draining, and it was great to hear

these themes being aired in an academic context.


But it got me thinking about the very first displaced people I met, back in 2008 on a trip to the Coast.


I remember their hospitality, their warmth, their desperation;

the woman who listed all the animals she had lost when she lost their land,

and then cried for the baby she had miscarried because she had been forced to flee,

the boy who pestered me every day to teach him English.


The figure of 6 million victims of forced displacement was bandied about a lot at the congress

but of course, it is impossible to love 6 million people or listen to 6 million stories.

You have to do that one person and one story at a time.

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Here’s a stiffer challenge than the ice bucket one


Been on holiday recently?

Could you say more or less what it cost you?

Did you know that many people round the world

can’t afford any sort of holiday at all?

How about making a donation that matches the budget

of your last holiday so that someone, let’s say

a hard-pressed rural pastor in Colombia,

can have few days at the beach?

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Grafitti poetry


A couple of weeks ago I visited a place called San Marcos

and was tickled by the poetic graffiti that adorned it.


Some of it relied on Spanish wordplay making it impossible to translate,

but I liked this one:


How long are you here for?

Should I be preparing a coffee or my life?

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The army is apparently cross about this and I can’t say I blame them


In the latest development at the Havana Peace Talks

between the government and the FARC,

senior soldiers have been present at the negotiations.


The Defence Minister argued that their presence was to ensure

that the FARC didn’t cheat in any subsequent disarmament process.


Try and get your head round what it must be like for these soldiers:

obliged to sit calmly across the table from the men

who give the orders to the guerrilla who AT THIS VERY MOMENT

are trying to kill their subordinates.


This will give you some idea of what a successful peace process

is going to cost Colombia in terms of the collective will to forgive.

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This guy must have thought I was crazy


At peak hours on the metro, some trains

don’t stop in all the stations.

The one that suits me has an orange sign,

but the green one doesn’t stop where I need to get off.


I rushed onto a train the other night, before I could see the sign,

and not hearing the usual announcements.


Is this train green or orange? I asked the first person I saw.

He looked puzzled and answered, It’s green and beige.

And it’s true, the metro trains are painted green and beige.

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Conversation with an honest beggar


An old man sits with two small black labradors at his side, and begs.

He says: I was hungry where I used to live

(a town about about 170 kms away from Medellín)

and I didn’t have food for my dogs.

Oh, how they looked at me with big, sad eyes.

But here, I’m fine. The people are kind and generous.

I have my little room, but I don’t have anything to do all day,

so I come out to the street.

Oh, I was hungry before but here there is more than enough food.

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