a prayer for four cities

I am a bit of a mountain man. Not because I am rough and hairy, or even strong and silent (because I am none of these things) - but because I grew up at 8000' (2300m) in the foothills of the greatest mountain range on earth, the Himalayas. I love the mountains. There is something about a big slab of mountain that speaks to me of security and stability.

I've just returned from Colombia and Bolivia. Those Andes mountains are impressive, as are the cities nestled high up in them.

Looking past the cathedral into Bolivar Square, with the flag atop the Capitol building

A painting of the Square
I landed in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. Close to 10 million people living at close to 9000' (2640m). The highlight?! A wander around Bolivar Square, with the four sides being occupied by the Primary Cathedral of Bogota (the church), the National Capitol (the government), Lievano Palace (the mayor), and the Palace of Justice (the Supreme Court). The institutions of church, politics and justice 'a stone's throw' away from each other, facing one another - and each under the watchful eye of the surrounding mountains (as this 1846 painting shows).

Then it was on to Medellin, once rated the most dangerous city in the world (during the drug cartel years of Pablo Escobar). We arrived at night. The road from the airport took us up and over a ridge and then down before us this vast sea of lights. 3 million people living at 5000' (1500m). Spectacular. The city is enclosed in a valley, totally surrounded by mountains. The poorer people live at the higher elevation, as their high density homes appear like brick blankets spreading up the hillsides. Within minutes of arriving in my room on the eleventh floor, this was my view...

Then it was overnight to Cochabamba, via La Paz. This trip had me in transit in La Paz not once, but twice. Add that to one earlier visit and I have made three visits to La Paz, but all in transit and all at night. So, 'I still haven't found what I am looking for' ... the surrounding mountains! But I sure felt that I was high up among them. Walk off that plane at 13,300' (4000m) and the knees weaken and the breathing struggles. Maybe next time my breath can be taken away by the view for a change.

Then it was off to Cochabamba (Bolivia). If  Medellin leans towards rain-forest terrain, then Cochabamba (with its inhabitants known as Cochabambinos!) leans more towards the desert. So dry, but still known as the 'City of Eternal Spring' for its consistently mild climate. At 8400' (2500m) it, too, is surrounded by mountains. Bolivia is the poorest of the countries of South America and its total population is roughly equivalent to Bangalore (India), where I live.

Looking up from a main road in Cochabamba

The view from Cadeca, where our meetings were held.

These cities, with their surrounding mountains, took me back repeatedly to Psalm 125.
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, 
which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 
As the mountains surround Bogota, Medellin, La Paz and Cochabamba, 
so the LORD surrounds his people both now and for evermore. 
The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, 
for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong. 
O LORD, do good to those who are good, 
whose hearts are in tune with you. 
But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O LORD. 
Take them away with those who do evil. 
Peace be on Colombia and Bolivia.
God is at work, raising up skilled preachers of his Word - like these two people - to minister that peace.

nice chatting



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