“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means ‘queen of the Ethiopians’). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?’And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. – Acts 8:26-29, 35-38
It was almost impossible not to think about this passage on that Sunday, November 10th. Just over 30 brothers from the cities of Bogotá, Cali and Medellín were visiting the International Church of Christ in Neiva, Huila, in western Colombia. We wanted to encourage the brothers and love them as Christ loves the church. It was a difficult time for the disciples in Neiva, especially for the young people, with whom I spoke to before traveling. I was really looking forward to seeing them during our visit. We arrived on Saturday, November 9th. We anticipated sharing time as brothers, having Biblical talks in the Tatacoa Desert and a time for fellowship after several of us traveled for hours to get there. On Sunday, we worshiped with the church in Neiva. Before the trip, God put in my heart not only the desire to visit them, but to share our faith in the city. It is always good to love those whom God has already reconciled with himself, but how valuable it is to spread the love of God with those who are still enemies. The Neiva brothers took us to a main square and we started to invite people to a short Bible talk. When we arrived, the city seemed to be empty, but in the blink of an eye, many people started listening to the words of Jesus, through our reading of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. While this passage was being shared, an old man approached a fountain in front of us to get some water. A young man who also traveled with us from Bogotá to be baptized the next day, approached the old man to invite him to listen. The man was carrying an empty bottle and said, “As soon as I get some water, I will come to listen!” We didn’t think he would come, but he kept his word. When he got to the circle of people who were listening, someone read the passage in John 4, which says, “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” Hearing this impacted the man, and he talked with some disciples at the end of the Bible talk. The man confessed that he lived in that square, homeless and without a family (because he did not want to know anything about them). He only had the clothes he was wearing and cardboard to sleep on. The man was in his 70s, and just at that moment, God touched his heart deeply. He surprised those who were listening with the scriptures he began to quote and the words that came out of his mouth. This man could understand many things. He knew that he should be baptized, and that it would mean the forgiveness of his sins and reconciliation with God. One of them asked him, “What keeps you from getting baptized?” The conversation went on for a while and then the young man who had invited him to join to the Bible talk, told him to come to his baptism and be baptized along with him. Early the next morning in the rain, we were all together along with the old man whose name is Don Filomeno. After talking with the disciples, Don was baptized. At that moment he ceased to be an enemy of God, and became his son. It is always amazing to see God work. His love for those who are lost leads us to remember when we were far from him, when we were his enemies, and who have been saved by the love and mercy of the most high. I shared Acts 8 because I haven’t stopped thinking about this story. I deeply believe that God allowed us to live what Philip experienced with the Ethiopian eunuch. One day I thought about the small churches of Colombia and God put in my mind the church in Neiva. I say “God” because as with Philip, it was God who, through his spirit, took us to that city. And on that Sunday night we were fortunate to meet Don Filomeno, who with nostalgia, love and tenderness, we now call our brother in Christ.