Matt and Becky Garrett
God has blessed First Baptist with the opportunity to take mission trips to Colombia, South America. This project was begun by Moncure Baptist Church, and we were blessed to join them. Our goal is to assist the Baptist I.M.B. missionaries in Colombia by opening doors with the indigenous people of various tribes. We have done this by teaching English to indigenous Colombian school teachers. The spiritual side of our work has been slow but steady, and we have seen various Colombians receive Christ as Savior through our witness. The local education systems in the places where we have served select the teachers in our classes, and at our insistence always include some indigenous teachers. In our teaching we model how they can use our lessons to teach English to their children in their school classes.
For the safety and security of the missionaries we help and our own security on future trips, we do not reveal the exact locations of our work through social media. However, we have taught among many different indigenous people groups all along the northern part of Colombia. We have learned a little Spanish ourselves and have come to love the people and their beautiful country. We mostly serve there in a hot climate, so it feels like NC summers. We have enjoyed special presentations of indigenous dances, songs, poetry, art, crafts, and foods. Occasionally, we have been invited into their villages (reservations) to visit in their homes (thatched roofs with dirt floors). Some of us even rode a donkey on one occasion and then proceeded to teach them to play kickball!
If you are interested in going with us, here are some Frequently Asked Questions:
1.) How do you usually travel?
Of course, we fly down on major airlines, making connections in various cities along the way. We have always been able to work with the local school system, so they have sometimes paid for our transportation on the ground, either with taxis or a van they sent. It seems that little 3-wheeled motorcycle taxis are fairly common and cheap, so we have often used them for traveling short distances. Mostly, we have walked about half a mile each way to get to and from our classes. Sometimes a local Colombian pastor has given us rides.
2.) How many people (size of your group) do you usually take (in essence, what works best)?
We usually take 4-5 people. 5 people with luggage can fit into 2 small cars or one big van. Also 5 can easily fit into 2 of the little motorcycle taxis. The more people, the more the transportation becomes a challenge. 5 people can work well with a class of 30-40 people. We break our classes into groups of about 6 students with an English language helper in each group.
3.) Can you give me an approximate/average cost per person for the trip?
Airfare typically costs us about $1,000 per person round-trip, which includes trip insurance. Our cheapest ever was about $650. Our most expensive was about $1600. Costs on the ground are about $500 per person per week, which includes hotel, food (including snacks), water, teaching materials, taxis, etc. Hotels and food in the more remote areas are very inexpensive compared to American prices where you would pay at least $100 a day just for the hotel. We like to collect everyone’s money up front as a donation to the church. Then one person buys the plane tickets and pays all the expenses all week, and turns in a report with receipts to the church at the end of the week. This way we save a lot of time on the ground in Colombia. The only thing individuals buy out-of-pocket on the ground are souvenirs and fancy between meal snacks if they want them. Total average price per person: $1500
4.) How many days in country do you usually stay/plan for?
We go for 4 weeks (one week each quarter during a year). We go back to the same students 4 different times with a different team of Americans going down each time. We only stay a week each time. A week can be fairly tiring when you are in a strange environment, eating new foods, and surrounded by a language you don’t understand. It’s sounds so easy, but can be draining, especially for the group’s lead teacher and the group’s treasurer. We normally fly out on a Saturday and fly back into RDU airport a week later on Sunday night.
Now let me share some about how we teach EFL (English as a Foreign Language):
We focus on offering the best EFL program that we can. If we “bait and switch,” meaning that we advertise that we will teach English, but then we end up mostly teaching the Bible, we may lose our invitation to return. So we focus a lot of energy on preparing and teaching English. As the students become our friends and are relaxed with us, we share our faith in Jesus more and more openly. Fortunately, the Colombian public schools are much more open to discussing the Christian faith than the schools in the States. We have never been asked to de-emphasize the gospel in our classes. We always present a daily Bible verse in Spanish and English, have distributed New Testaments and gospel tracts, have always prayed in class, etc. without any problem.
Over the past 5 years we created a 13-page manual for our team members that includes things like vaccinations needed and a list of what to pack, and we give that to anyone seriously considering going with us. Anyone who wants to be ready to go, should proceed with getting a passport, since that can be a delay.
Results of This Project:
Taking the Good News of Jesus to a people group who have never heard it is slow work. We have been blessed to lead a few people in each location where we served to receive Jesus as their Savior. We have shared a clear witness, explaining the gospel to about 150 adult students. We have made outstanding friends all across the region where we serve. We have opened doors so that our permanent missionaries are now welcomed into indigenous villages to tell Bible stories and to begin planting new churches. We played a role in starting a new outdoor church in one town. We have encouraged and helped numerous Colombian pastors and church leaders. Those of us who have gone on these trips have grown in our own faith and evangelistic fervor. Finally, what is the worth of a soul? It has been worthwhile and we are blessed to have served in Colombia.
If you are interested in participating in a future Colombia, South America Mission Trip, or if you have questions about this mission, please fill out the form below and Matt will get back to you…