Light Shines Brightest in the Dark05 Aug 2016, Posted by Blog in
“When we walk, don’t point your cameras over there,” Tom said, pointing to a corner where a group of young men were standing. He continued explaining to us that they were part of one of the many violent gangs that control the city and don’t want their photos taken for obvious reasons. This was the beginning of our tour of the neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia where Tom Atwater runs a ministry called Viento Fresco (Fresh Wind).
In our short walk around the block we were confronted with a dark reality. Hundreds of people living on the street, some completely strung out on drugs or debilitated from alcoholism, lying on the sidewalk. Others were collecting recyclables in large, dirty sacks slung over their backs.
As we walked, I looked many of these people in the eyes, and was met with a terrifying feeling of emptiness – the absence of a person that used to be whole.
And then I saw some children playing marbles in a dusty patch of dirt. These are the kids that Viento Fresco is reaching out to.
In this dark place, there is a light. “It shines brighter in the dark,” Tom likes to say.
On the surface, Viento Fresco provides daycare for young children, soccer programs for adolescents and counseling for mothers and fathers, but digging deeper, reveals an amazing picture of community transformation.
Yuliana is one of the mothers who have been impacted by the ministry, and whose life is being turned around. She proudly told us that she recently moved to a new 3-room apartment where each of her five children has their own bed, and they have one private bathroom. She then offered to take us to the place she used to live.
The crumbling stairs led up from the street where two drunk men sat staring, and we ascended into a dark, dingy hallway only wide enough for one person. There were a series of doors on the left side that led to small, dark, windlowless rooms. One of these used to be Yuliana’s. The bathroom at the end of the hall is shared by 30 people. As I stood there, elderly residents squeezed past me, shirtless and bent over. A blind woman exited one of the rooms and felt her way down the dimly lit hallway. A man bathed in the sink.
“This makes me sad,” said Yuliana, clearly moved by the experience of coming back to this place that she once called home.
Since coming to Christ through Viento Fresco’s ministry, Yuliana was empowered to improve her situation and provide a safe and stable atmosphere for her family.
A lot happened in the two days of filming in that neighborhood.
I met a former gang leader who used to kill people without thinking twice. Now, that same man has given his life to the Lord and is the soccer program director at Viento Fresco. I saw a taxi driver give his life to Christ right there in his taxi, praying with Tom, outside the doors of Viento Fresco.
This is a dark place, but because of Viento Fresco and the power of the Holy Spirit working through the people of this ministry, I am able to look at this place in a new light – in the hopeful, redemptive light of Jesus Christ.
Chasing the light,