John and Laurie Lopez are working together to minister to kids at risk, and their families in a poor neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia. They are also involved in a church plant in the area in which they work.
Laurie worked many years at Multnomah Bible College in the Missions Department in Portland, OR and also helped at her church, Hinson Baptist Church, with the young adults group. During that time, she took various teams on short-term mission trips to Medellin, Colombia. Each time she returned from Medellin, her heart felt a strong pull to return. She eventually was invited by a foundation in Colombia to join their team. While praying about the opportunity, she sought God’s will to leave her stable job at Multnomah to raise support to go to Medellin. At the time, humanly, it made no sense to start this journey as the US was in the middle of an economic crisis (around 2009). After praying very specifically for guidance in God’s will, 2 days later, her boss at Multnomah called her into his office to let her know that due to the economy they were forced to cut her position at Multnomah. Her response was that of excitement as it was a confirmation to her prayer about leaving her a stable job.
During her time at Multnomah, she had the opportunity to work with a number of reps from various mission agencies as she planned the missions conference there as well as planned the workshop section of Mission ConneXion NW. Due to that experience, as well as her time on the mission board at church, she chose to go with WorldVenture.
In April of 2012 she had raised the necessary support and was released to go to Medellin to begin language study. One year later, after completing language study, the foundation where she was planning to work began to make some changes that she was not comfortable with. As a result, she began to pray and seek counsel on the possibility of starting a new ministry. At that time, she was in a poor neighborhood and saw a baby (less than a year) sitting in the middle of the street playing with rocks. Her friend asked a group of women nearby if they could hold the baby. They said, “sure”. As the baby nestled into Laurie’s shoulder, she felt an overwhelming sadness and pull to work in that neighborhood. That began the ministry in Robledo Aures, a poor suburb of Medellin.
In 2015, Laurie met John Lopez (who is now her husband) and he began to work in the ministry. He is currently the director of our ministry, Bible study leader, literacy teacher, and pastor in the church plant. Laurie co-directs and teaches English classes and various children/teen Bible classes for the children in the ministry. They also have a team that helps with other Bible classes, art classes, etc.
John is native Colombian and grew up on a farm about 4 hours outside Medellin. During his childhood he experienced the tension of a FARC and paramilitary presence near his home. Immediately after he graduated from high school, John moved to Medellin. After a time working in a family business John made the decision to go to seminary. He is mid-way through his studies in seminary.
Medellin is a large city of about 4 million people. Due to many years of involvement in an armed conflict, there are many displaced families who have moved to the larger cities. As a result, there are many poor and homeless living in Medellin. There is also a huge problem with gangs, drugs, and prostitution. Often the teens who are drawn into the gangs and prostitution come from the poorer neighborhoods as they are enticed, initially, with money and possessions.
The ministry was initially started to work with children at risk in Robledo; to provide other options than gangs, drugs, and prostitution. Offered in the ministry are Bible classes (required), English classes, art classes, help with homework, literacy classes for children and adults, and an adult Bible study. While working with people who often don’t have money to even buy milk for their babies, it became apparent that there was no way they could travel outside the neighborhood to attend a church, so a partnership with ABWE missionaries was created to plant a church in the neighborhood.