BOGOTÁ, Colombia – It’s the listening ear. It’s the soap and shampoo, the fuzzy socks, the melody sung by a compassionate Christian. It’s the prayer for God’s protection and healing that means so much to the men, women and children staying in a medical shelter in Bogotá, Colombia.
It’s these things and more that International Mission Board missionary April Byron and her national partner, Salomé, provide when they visit the shelter each week.
April and her husband, Donnie, minister to university students, the displaced and people seeking medical treatment in Bogotá.
Salomé is a missionary commissioned by the Denominación Bautista Colombiana, the Baptist Convention of Colombia. The convention started its own missionary training center this year, and Salomé was in the first training group.
People from rural areas come to the capital to seek medical care for ailments that cannot be treated where they live, and the government provides housing for them during their medical stay.
April and Salomé visit a shelter that hosts between 35 and 70 guests. Every time they go, they take hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, deodorant. They also provide infant formula, wipes and diapers for mothers.
They often strike up conversation with the age-old go-to — the weather. At 8,660 feet, the weather in Bogotá is much colder than the regions where many of the visitors are from. It’s pumpkin spice and flannel-shirt weather year-round, April said.
April and Salomé come ready to distribute “fuzzy socks.” Churches also donate jackets and warm-weather clothing.
Each visit is a continuation of communication, asking how a doctor’s visit went, celebrating answers to prayer and praying for ongoing and new requests.
“A lot of times they’re sad, they’re lonely, they just want to talk to somebody about their medical journey,” April said.
Some people stay long-term, some come one week and are gone the next, making interactions brief but intentional.
A husband and wife who stayed in five different shelters during the wife’s journey to beat cancer told April this was the first time someone came to visit them and that it was such a blessing.
Because of the transiency of those in the shelters, their visits are often the entry point where seeds of the gospel are shared. Follow-up and church formation will happen in their hometowns.
This November, April, Salomé and 30 church members from a local congregation visited the shelter. During the visit, shelter guests sifted through clothing church members brought, enjoyed worship music and listened to the pastor give an encouraging message. Salomé shared the story of the Parable of the Sower.
April and Salomé had been praying the Lord would provide someone to minister with them. After the church’s visit, Felicia, one of the church members, approached April and asked how she could be involved.
The week after the church’s visit, April, Salomé and Felicia went to find the daughter of one of the women they spoke with in the shelter. They didn’t find the woman’s daughter, but they were given permission to come back and share Bible stories at three other shelters.
“It was a hunt, but it was a very fruitful hunt,” April said.
Join April and Salomé in prayer that the ministry will expand to other shelters and that their witness will extend. Pray for more opportunities to share Bible stories and pray that people’s hearts will be open to the gospel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Some names may be changed. This article was written by Tessa Sanchez, a writer for the IMB.)