You have to get up early if you want to get a seat in this church

The place of his presence – El lugar de su presencia

Saturday afternoon: It takes me three hours to get through all the controls at Bogota airport. General surgeon Dr. Johana waits patiently at the exit. Her husband, Dr. Ivan Martin, is one of the few organ transplant surgeons in Colombia. These two doctors thankfully hosted me in their home. I am a bit shaken by jet lag, but the same evening I meet the manager of one of the most famous South American singers – Alex Campos. After all, the Colombian, who now lives in Houston, has won five Latin Grammy Awards. The meeting lasts seven hours. At 2 o’clock at night our meeting ends with many good ideas.

At 6 o’clock on Sunday morning it is time to get up. We want to get a place in the first service of the church “El Lugar de su Presencia”. No easy task. Surely 1,000 people queue up at the entrance shortly after 7 am. Ivan, his daughter Isabella and I grab three free chairs. As I can see in a moment, all 3,000 seats in the auditorium are occupied. Another 1,500 people are seated in the hall behind and several hundred in various conference rooms. 5,000 people at a Sunday morning service would not be easily topped by a European church congregation. But here 8 services are celebrated in a row. But in addition to the 40,000 people attending the service, tens of thousands are tuning in on the Internet.

View to the left. There is not one free seat.

There is no free beer here, and no promises of cures for the sick. Of course, the services are celebrated with South American flair. But the sermon of 40 minutes is delivered matter-of-factly and modestly. I can underline every single sentence inside. Faith is at the center. Thousands listen spellbound. The audience consists of people from all walks of life. Half are men. Old and young. I immediately notice that people’s hearts are in it. Worship is a passion for her. After all, what better way to begin Sunday than in the presence of God. No one presses the tear gland and a collection is also not collected. The overriding theme is the reality of God healing human relationships and bringing about positive change in society.

The message of a church congregation cannot be more central: Jesus Christ

The band on stage brings it with its songs on Youtube to many millions of clicks. Just the thing for a Diospi Suyana youth festival. During the break I have the opportunity to speak with Pastor Orlando Reyes. He is one of the six pastors. The pictures in the laptop show him in 20 minutes that God is at work everywhere – even in Curahuasi, Peru.

“It would be great if their band could be at our youth festival in April!”, I conclude. Pastor Orlando nods, he sees it the same way I do. “Send me an official letter in the next week, we want to try to come!”

A play on the stage

The average age of worshipers is the same as that of Colombian society. The young generation predominates.

A factual sermon of 40 minutes. 5,000 people in the auditoriums listen live. The first service of eight: 8 x 5,000=40,000 listeners that Sunday. In addition, tens of thousands more on the Internet
Pastor Orlando de Reyes, one of the pastors, has just heard the story of Diospi Suyana.
A small parish in the south of Bogota. 150 chairs are provided, but with the standing room on the street, at least 180 people attend the service.

Dr. Ivan Martin shows me another parish in the south of Bogota. He grew up in this area and his mother attends services here every Sunday. The place is packed. People stand up to the street and attentively follow the two-hour service. At the end, I shake at least 150 hands and rejoice in the cordiality of the “brothers and sisters in the faith”.

Western Europeans can hardly imagine that. Millions of people from all educational levels of society fill churches large and small in South America. People who are hungry and thirsty for a personal encounter with God. The presence of God fills the hole in the soul. Actually not a new insight. Maybe someday they will have converted the last churches in Europe into museums and discos. But this would not herald the end of the Christian faith. Millions and millions of people – university professors and shoe shiners, corporate executives and students, rich and poor flock to churches in America, Africa and Asia. They know that money does not satisfy, but that the love of God gives them forgiveness, hope and orientation.

If you ask me, the hope of mankind has a name: Jesus Christ!/KDJ

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