Colombia's Children Fed by Faith

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BOGOTA, Colombia - Pastor Guillermo Parra challenges the notion that Colombia is only about coffee, drug lords, and violent kidnappings.

"If you have a small vision, your God is very small. If you have a great vision, your eyes will be the eyes of God," he says.

For decades, Colombia's farm people have fled from leftist rebel groups who took their lands by force.

Many have lost everything: homes, family, parents, children. Some end up in a place like Ciudad Bolivar - the southside of Bogota.

From the Dust of the Earth

Parra was born here, in one of the poorest neighborhoods. The bare earth served as the floor to his dwelling - which he shared with his parents and five other sibliings.

"I was born in one of those poor houses, we were very poor, my family had great needs," he said.

But early in his ministry, the young pastor was challenged to believe God for greater things, to believe that God could create something incredible out of his nothing.

The reality that so many of Colombia's children were suffering weighed on his soul. God was directing him to feed them - body, mind, and spirit.

"I thought I was going crazy. Every night I started to have dreams about the kids that were hungry." he said. "I told the Lord, 'This is impossible, I do not have the money to do this.'"

Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken children live in south Bogota. Card board, tin shacks dot the hillsides, a stark visual of the destitution here. Most houses here have no running water, unless you count the rain water running through the dirt floors.

Faith for the Impossible

As a pastor, Parra also had very little, even for his own family. But as God challenged his faith, he in turn challenged his church - which barely mustered $200 a month total at the time.

"It was difficult because we got 400 kids who came hungry and came to study," he said. "It looked like Africa, too much need, too much hunger."

At first, the members of his congregation thought he was crazy when he told them what he wanted to do. But as he believed God, their hearts began to change. And the resources began to come in.

"We started to talk about faith, plans, and our vision, that God would bring supernatural things to us," he said.

One day, a lady who Parra had met volunteered to help build a center for these children. She had been looking for three years for a place to build a children's home.

Growing in Faith

Today, Parra oversees ten projects, or centers, that care for more than a thousand children once stuck in a cycle and mindset of poverty.

"We want those children to be men and women of a future, that they overcome, to understand that God has called them to be blessed," he said.

More than 70 volunteers now help care for these children. All volunteers, including pastors and leaders from churches he helped start in this same area, also live by faith for their provision.

"The leaders and pastors who are helping are people who have been born in this community," he said. "They thought they were nobody, but God molded them and believed in them. Now they are men and women with a great vision."

Parra encourages each of them to dream big. He now plans to build an orphanage and a hospital on a nearby piece of land his church is praying to purchase.

"We dream with power from the Holy spirit that there will be revival, that we will see entire towns worshipping God," he said.

Feeding Bogota; Changing the World

Parra no longer just pastors a small church. He pastors the entire community. While their vision is to "feed the 5,000," their hopes now extend far beyond Colombia's borders.

"Colombia, with the drugs, have been accused of being a bad place. But we, as children of God are believing that He will bring something supernatural," he said. "That there will be a powerful revival in this country and great blessings to this area."

Parra's church continues to pray for Colombia's complete freedom from drugs, addictions, and guerrilla groups. And through their faith, that is happening, one child at a time.

"When God provides for a child, and provides for a family, that family stands up thankfully and becomes a blessing to others," he said. "That's the power of the Gospel to change people and lives."

*Original broadcast April 27, 2008.

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