Last week, the locals in Cali, Colombia, threw a surprise celebration service to commemorate 30 years of e3 Partners’ work in the country. Bernardo Gonzalez, National Director for e3 Colombia since 2011, and Sam Ingrassia, a church planting mobilizer with e3 who has been leading trips to Colombia since 1993, were in awe when they walked into the church with their team.

“It was like a pep rally,” Sam said. “It was a worship pep rally service. They held it in a big church called Atmosfera Del Reino, which means Atmosphere of the Kingdom. And it really was the atmosphere of the Kingdom: music, lights, dancing, balloons, praise, worship … they had a big lit-up 30, a white chair for Yo Soy Segundo [the Spanish version of I Am Second that has made a huge impact in Colombia], a giant Evangecube … when I walked in and saw all that, I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.”

On top of all that, the official council of the city of Cali and State of Valle de Cauca passed a resolution recognizing e3’s work over the last 30 years. The resolution describes e3’s work and details all the transformed lives and churches planted. It is signed by all the government officials. Additionally, the city gave Sam and Bernardo a Silver Cross Medal award, which is the second-highest honor they will give to someone who has worked in their city.

“That was a humbling-to-tears honor,” Sam said. “Here you’ve got a secular government honoring Christian work.

“It was a life event,” Sam said. “Like something happens in your life that’s never going to happen again and that’s never happened before. It just marks you. That’s what that evening was. I was crying like a baby. I don’t know how you could not.”

The celebration endcapped last week’s trip to Colombia, where Sam and co-leader Mary Quinn led a group of 30 people from churches all over the U.S. They worked in 14 communities to partner with and mobilize over 120 Colombians, and the resulting team of 150 shared the Gospel more than 1,600 times.

“The people there are just so open to the Gospel,” Mary said. “I would share my testimony then ask them if they wanted to know more about Jesus. Then I’d turn it over to the local church members so they start developing relationships with them.”

After sharing the Gospel, the team would invite people to come back to church that night and divide them into what they call Yo Soy Segundo groups.

“They are simply Bible discussion groups,” Sam said. “They read passages and discuss them. It’s not really Bible study or teaching or preaching … it’s just helping people see that you can read the Bible and actually understand it and obey it.”

From there, the local pastors and church members follow up with the new believers, teaching them how to pray, read their Bibles, fellowship with other believers, and ultimately share their faith with others to plant more churches.

“Our ministry is all about planting churches,” Sam said. “But not just planting them … establishing them. It’s not only about when we come on these trips. It’s about the work the Colombians are doing continuously. We just come into key cities and places to catalyze work – to encourage and train – but it’s the local pastors and leaders who own the vision to mobilize churches to make other churches and advance the Kingdom.”

Though Sam started the work in Colombia 30 years ago, he said he is just one of many who have been involved in the e3 Colombia ministry and fueled its growth.

“Our name is e3 Partners, and ‘partners’ is a really key word,” Sam said. “Everyone that comes to the table to work is a partner, whether they’re giving, going, or praying. We’re all partners in the Great Commission.”

Seeing God work in Colombia these past 30 years has reminded Sam of Ephesians 3:20, he said.

“God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all you could ask or imagine,” he said. “I could have never dreamed any of this. If I died today, I’ve seen more and done more by the grace of God in this kind of work than I could have ever imagined.”