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I know theology. They know God.

Recently, I had the privilege and honour of visiting several dear sisters in Christ in Bogota, Colombia, a city which has seen a recent growth in economy and safety and therefore tourism. However, if you leave behind the bustle of modern Bogota, you enter the rural ‘red zones’ where villages and families are caught in the crosshairs of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), ELN (National Liberation Army), and paramilitary groups. We hear so often of Islamic State and Boko Haram these days that we forget the cruelty of the FARC’s indiscriminate murder of those that they find useless — those who won’t join their ranks or buy drugs to fund their guerrilla warfare — usually, Christians.

Imagine living in a village where you and your neighbours could be killed if the FARC thought you supported the paramilitary, or vice versa. Trust is difficult. The women I met had lost homes, husbands, and children because of the violence. I sat next to ‘Milena’ as the translator relayed her story. Her tears needed no translation. Her story came out haltingly as she hesitated to open fresh wounds, but when we asked her if God had been with her, the words poured out of her; He had been her comfort and strength in her loss and loneliness.

As I hugged, listened to and prayed for these women, I was struck with the knowledge that I did not know God as they did, despite all the Bible studies, church services, and conferences I’ve been too. Their experience of Him is so much deeper than mine, hence the realisation that most of my knowledge of God is theological head knowledge.

After visiting Colombia, I cannot say that I prayed to lose everything I own. I did not walk into my house and ask God to take it all away from me. It is my hope, however, that I am growing to see all that I have as luxuries, not as blessings. Luxuries that I could very easily do without if God asked me if He could take them away.

The world says, “Pursue your own happiness and gain earthly wealth.” Live for luxury.

Christ says, “Find your joy in Me and gain the treasures of heaven.” I’ll let Him decide what persecution or suffering I will endure on this life. I am just called to obey, regardless of the cost.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:11-12, emphasis mine)

The real beauty of Colombia isn’t in the modern, mountainous city of Bogota, but the lives of Milena and the others that have learned to count their blessings, not their luxuries. They have the blessing of the knowledge of the Most High God.

Leah Grant writes for The Voice of the Martyrs USA