Between high school and Bible College, I spent the summer in Bogotá, Colombia with a team of twenty distributing the gospel of John and an offer of a free Bible correspondence course. We did this to help missionaries who had recently relocated to Bogotá to accelerate their work. We prayed constantly for people to come to Christ and visited homes seven hours a day for two months. This impacted us and Bogotá. Over 2500 signed up for the course and began coming to Christ as the missionaries followed through afterward. In a short time, two churches started. It was a remarkable missions trip, but the story doesn’t end there.
The missionaries were all Scots—one couple and one single man, Colin Crawford. Colin loved God and had come to love Colombians because of hearing the story of a Colombian young man who was brutally killed by some police officers for refusing to stop sharing Christ. Full of life, he enjoyed people and they enjoyed him. We had many good times and conversations together. Colin followed the George Mueller model of never talking about financial needs, but only trusting God and his support was extremely low, so he taught in the major university in Bogotá. This gave him natural contact with nonbelievers and great entry into the culture, especially as a relational person.
I did not realize till years later that Colin was a tentmaker because I did not understand tentmaking at the time. Colin strongly identified with and embraced the Colombian people. An interesting speaker and good Bible teacher, he drew many to his teaching and, by invitation, provided major teaching for the charismatic renewal movement in the Catholic Church. In 1973 with his new Swedish wife, he launched a church which grew into one of the largest in Bogotá. As the demands of leadership grew, Colin transitioned from tentmaking into full-time ministry.
His church birthed seven more churches in Bogotá plus others in Colombia and beyond. Colin and his church also created a biblical seminary. Because of his continued concern for people, they began a school for church children and poor children, and another one for deaf children. In 1990 they built the Colombo-Swedish Institute which provides education to over 1500 students from poor backgrounds.
Colin became increasingly Colombian, becoming a Colombian citizen and serving in the House of Representatives for four years. During that time he put through legislation to benefit the mentally ill and the deaf. In 2007, Colin died in his beloved Colombia.
As Jesus left heaven and entered our world to show us the Father, so Colin left Scotland to enter Colombians’ world to show them Jesus. He incarnated and communicated Christ in his whole life. And beginning as a tentmaker helped him become one of them by working just like they did.
Tentmaking enables us to potently identify with the people—to enter their world. While we do not have to become citizens like Colin, if we are willing to enter another people’s world for an extended period through our work, our love, and our words, God will use us to disciple them and even more.