Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Evaluating the year

One of the things we do in Colombia is PME: planning, monitoring, and evaluation. This was a new concept to me when I first arrived, but is now part of the rhythm that I expect and look forward to. This is the time of year for evaluating the past year, the projects we did, and the goals we set for the year. The whole time we are asking the questions, how did we do and what can we learn?

Part of the group - photo credit Jorge Diaz
The Education Ministry of IELCO met as a whole team to go through the evaluation process. The ministry is made up of five components: The Lutheran School of Theology, The Road to Emmaus Foundation, CELCO - Lutheran Schools, Christian Formation, and Leadership and Formation. People from each of these different components were present.

The rest of the group - photo credit Jorge Diaz

It was a great day with a lot of amazing work done throughout the year. The team also began to dream for how they want to move forward and made goals for the coming year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

National Prejuvenile Retreat

Last weekend, the human rights program of IELCO helped sponsor and organize the annual national retreat for the prejuvenile group of the church (ages 12-15). The retreat was focused on recognizing the past, understanding the present and creating a vision for the future. There were over 70 participants from around the country from this age group that participated in the retreat.

The human rights program was responsible for organizing the activities for the “future”. After filling out an asset inventory about their skills and abilities, the youth then broke out into smaller groups to study people that have made contributions to making the world a better place. Some of these people included Rosa Parks, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. Afterwards, they discussed what these people and their stories inspire in them. They took their inventories of abilities and developed plans for how they would like to be involved in making the world a better place. Some groups planned the development of a foundation that would assist immigrants, others wanted to work to end discimination, and others wanted to make sure that all had educational opportunities.

Zulma Ojeda, leading the opening devotion for the retreat. Photo by Curtis.
Walking in and out of the doors acted as the "time portal" to go to the past and to the future. The youth were also invited to leave messages on it. Photo by Curtis.
The small group that studied César Chávez presenting about what they are inspired to do in the future. They wanted to make sure that all agricultural workers were paid fairly. Photo by Curtis.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Course: Sustainable Community Development

This semester, I have been accompanying the Lutheran School of Theology, by teaching a course for the students called Sustainable Community Development. In the course we have covered topics such as: What is community? What is poverty? As well as different ways to conceptualize what it means for a community to develop itself. We have also gone over practical tools such as developing stories (public narratives) about the community in order to demonstrate the mission of the community, and that these stories can act as glue holding the community together as well as giving a solid foundation to keep striving for improvement.

We developed understandings of community development according to three identified principles: sustainability, empowerment, and participation. Specific activities that can be implemented in communities to guide in the search for these principles were also taught. Some of these practical activities are: Community Asset Mapping, Appreciative Inquiry, how to identify dominant frameworks (ways of explaining realities in the community) that might be harmful to the self-esteem of the community, and how to uplift subordinated frameworks that could foment more action, among many other tools to be implemented.

Last week was the final class for the course (I forgot to take a picture of the class together). In the final discussion about the class, the learnings, and the tools. I learned that the content of the class has already impacted how some sermons are being written, how some activities are being developed, as well as plans for further implementation of the tools mentioned. The students also mentioned that they want to talk to the director of the Lutheran School of Theology to see if this course could become mandatory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Leadership Retreat

ProFILE (lay leadership training) has finished its classes for 2018. This is the third group that has finished this program. (2015, 2016 and now 2018).  

The group working through some Bible stories and thinking about homiletics and creative preaching styles. We were in Villavicencio, which is very hot. So we found some shade and sat outside where at least we could feel the breeze. 

As with all the activities we try to teach using a variety of pedagogical methods. 
The IELCO also celebrated the Reformation, and the ProFILE students graduated during the worship service. As you can see, the people from Villavicencio did a great job decorating for the worship celebration. 

The full group of ProFILE 2018! 
Organizing team of ProFILE. Left to right, me, Zulma, Pastor Eduardo, and Pastor Angela (from the seminary in Mexico who came to lead this retreat). 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rural Community Organizing

Last week I went to Socota in the mountainous region of Boyaca. Socota is actually where the Lutheran church in Colombia started over 80 years ago. It is a rural farming area. 

About 15-20 years ago a large amount of coal mines began to be developed in the region, and many people abandoned their farming practices to pursue the promises of riches from working in the mines. Many in the community have realized that those riches are not to be found, and in the process the land is being damaged.

About two years ago a food security project in the community came to a close. The project helped families develop large gardens in an effort to recuperate the traditions of growing food. After two years, we looked into the effects of that food security project and found that almost all of the families involved have enlarged their gardens and/or helped neighbors develop their own. With this positive outcome the Human Rights program decided to continue to accompany the community. Through conversations with leaders in the community we decided the best way to accompany them is through ‘community organizing’: Helping build more solidarity between the families and other actors in the community; looking for the assets in the community and how to put them to use; and building a vision for the future.

On October 27th we held our first meeting to get the process started, we talked about what is ‘community organizing’, what are the hopes and dreams of the community, and planned out a process that will begin more strongly at the beginning of 2019.

The group from the community that came to the initial meeting. Photo by Fabian Bello.

Miguel sharing a map he drew of the community and where some of the different community assets are. Photo by Fabian Bello.

In small groups discussing what assets already exist in the community that could help strengthen community processes. Photo by Fabian Bello.
Beginning the meeting by discussing different methods for making change in the community, and what community organizing is. Photo by Fabian Bello.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Equipping Ourselves in Faith and Freedom to Serve and Transform

Last weekend we held the National Sunday School teachers retreat. The retreat focused on different ways to live into the freedom we have as Christians, and how we can use that freedom to serve and transform ourselves, our communities, and the world.

So much happened in the three days of the retreat, that it could not all fit in one blog. I have done my best to summarize the highlights of the weekend and share some of my best photos. Enjoy!

One of the highlights of the weekend was a play that this very talented group of youth wrote just for the retreat. They took the story of the feeding of the 5000, and wrote a play about caring for the needs of others based on that story. 
The theater group also led a few sessions on acting basics. All the participants were very interested to learn new ways to be creative and new ways to teach through acting. The activity in the picture was "mirroring" where we had a team up and act as mirrors to our partners (it's harder than you would expect). 

Of course we had worship. Pastor Nelson preached and lead the other "pastoral duties" throughout the weekend. 

At the end of worship, the organizing team, which is made up of leaders from every region. These people have many responsibilities for Christian formation throughout the year. Left to right: Miguel (regional coordinator in Boyaca), Mauricio (coordinator of pre-adolescents), Pastor Nelson, Judith (regional coordinator in Plains), Belky (regional coordinator of eastern region), Mauricio (volunteer for everything Education), me, Carolina (regional coordinator in south central, and the newly elected national coordinator), Zulma (national coordinator for Christian Formation) (and missing from the photo Stella - coordinator in north central)

We divided into groups to rotate through different stations, each station working through a part of freedom (the theme of the weekend). This photo was from my station where we discussed that through our freedom we commit to serving in the church - using our gifts. (Because I was in charge of one of the stations, I don't have pictures of the others). 

Through donations, we always give the congregations who participate in these spaces materials so they can continue to do the work in their congregations. Pictured is one representative from each of the congregations receiving their material - there were 15 different congregations which participated in the retreat (not pictured Socota).  

The whole group! It was a fun, learning filled, weekend. (Picture by one of the staff at the retreat center). 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Lutheran Solidarity

Last week, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) held a series of trainings for the Colombian, Venezuelan, and Bolivian Lutheran churches.  FELM invited me to facilitate trainings on two of their focus areas: conflict analysis and climate change. The goal is that all new projects supported by FELM will have components that address thesefocus areas.

Members of all 3 churches discussing different types of projects that deal with climate change. Photo by Riikka Leskinen.

 The members from the different countries were able to talk about the realities in their different contexts, their struggles and their dreams, as well as how to be church together. Conversations were had about the different impacts of a changing climate that have been witnessed in the different countries, as well as different aspects of conflicts that are experienced in the different countries. Processes to continue sharing experiences and knowledge have already been developed between the churches.

Members at the training in an activity about the connections of creation, when one part of the yarn is plucked, all can feel it.
Photo by Riikka Leskinen.

Discussing all of the different connections in nature. Photo by Riikka Leskinen.