Monday, September 21, 2009


Hola, Friends of Colombia

The men in the City of Refuge here in Canaan Colombia begin their Monday mornings by getting together in the chapel to express their gratitude, and deal with any issues they may have before they start the week.

On one particular morning I sat in to observe. This is what I witnessed:

One man stood to his feet shaking. He was choking back great emotion; he proceeded to express how he was feeling for the way he had reacted the day before towards another brother in the dorm. He said in anger he had threatened to get a knife and kill him. Earlier this morning he had decided he would leave the program for the shame he felt for not being able to control his rage. Others around him encouraged him to ask the brother for forgiveness, but the struggle in him was too intense.

You see, just two months prior he had chosen to leave the streets of Barrinquilla, and the crack slums where he was dying in his addiction. He wanted to come back to the only place that might possibly take him in. Stinking, filthy, and weak from malnutrition he somehow found the courage and strength to walk the 10 miles to the Camp Canaan gate here in Baranoa where he stayed. He slept on the ground for 2 and a half days refusing to leave.

Each day the men in the program brought him food, but they continued to inform him that because of the past circumstances in which he had left this place it was going to be difficult for him to get an interview to re-enter the program. For those in the streets it is also a financial dilemma. They have usually spent their life resources. Finances in the program can be very tight. Also, there are not that many people who are willing to send their hard earned money to help a drug addict or alcoholic who has chosen this life style. The reality is: if you are not willing to work your program, shame will drive you away, and remorse will bring you back, only to repeat the cycle. Who can help a man like this? I think only Papa can.

He had not left the gate. The men in the City of Refuge, in the same compassion and mercy that they had received, let him back in. He passed his interview; would he pass the next test? He did. He did ask for forgiveness. The brother whom he had offended and threatened stood up and held his arms out. They hugged each other. He cried to have received such compassion like this. Why would anyone forgive him? The older brother knew. He knew that for whom much is forgiven much is required. Outcast, in the gutter or secure in the family, if we want to be forgiven we must forgive...

A new week... A weak man fallen, but forgiven, gets back up to choose life one more day. I think my eyes may have leaked a little too.

Ray Nelson