Shining Brightly in the Dark

1 December 2021

At this time of the year, Christians celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the “true light” who came into the world (John 1:9). While the gospel record describes a simple, obscure birth in a manger in Bethlehem, the observance of his birth today is often marked by extravagant displays of lights. One of the largest displays of Christmas lights in the world can be seen in Medellín, Colombia. In 2020, 27 million LED lights adorned the streets and river in downtown Medellín. What a stark contrast to that dark night in Bethlehem twenty centuries ago!

The story of Christmas is the account of how the light of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness. No matter how great the darkness that envelops the world, the true light will overpower the darkness (John 1:5). During the end of the 20th century, Medellín was one of the world’s darkest and most dangerous cities. It served as the base of operations for Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord whose drug cartel controlled about 80% of the world’s cocaine supply. He viciously dominated and terrorized the citizens of Medellín and, though he was killed in 1993, the network of crime corruption he established continued to darken the city for many years.

How did the light of Christ overcome the great darkness that enshrouded Medellín? One of the points of light that God used to reflect the person of his Son and strengthen his church in Medellín was the Fundación Universitaria Seminario Bíblico de Colombia (FUSBC). Since its inception in 1944, FUSBC has continued to shine brightly in an environment that has often been hostile to Christians. Slowly over the last three decades, Medellín has experienced a transformation. Elizabeth Sendek, former president of FUSBC, described the church’s impact on Medellín during the time of violence: 

“Churches became places of refuge for those whose family members were killed. They nurtured forgiveness instead of revenge in a city where disputes were settled with an arm, and places of redemption where lives were transformed.”

Over the last thirty years, FUSBC has been reflecting the light of Christ and dispelling the darkness of sin and violence. Sendek recounted two key ministries that God has used: 

“In association with the Colombian branch of Prison Fellowship, we have run a Bible institute in what was the most dangerous prison in Medellín, even from the days when Escobar was alive. This has been a seedbed of prison ministry leaders for other prisons around the country and several pastors who know how to minister to the inmates. A soccer ministry was started on our campus, by a faculty member. A good number of our graduates serve in vulnerable neighborhoods with soccer clubs that keep young people from recruitment by delinquent groups. Several of those clubs have been the starting point of churches in violence-ridden settings.”

FUSBC is committed to teaching the Word of God to prepare leaders for the church in continuing the transformative work of God in Medellín and the rest of Colombia. Their goal is to provide a high quality of both formal and informal instruction while, at the same time, attempting to encourage students to pursue spiritual formation for daily life as well as to serve the Lord in churches and society. FUSBC desires to be “deeply rooted in Scripture and stubbornly committed to be relevant in our context,” Sendek says. One example of the breadth of the ministry of FUSBC took place in November of 2021. On this occasion, 60 pastors and lay leaders from Medellín and surrounding towns participated in a certification ceremony to celebrate the conclusion of a three-year program designed to meet the needs of their churches. 

At Horizon Education Network, we are grateful for FUSBC as they continue to shine the light of Jesus Christ through training leaders for his church. It is our great joy to see how God is overcoming darkness through the ministry of our education partners like FUSBC.

Medellín lights