Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lutheran Schools in Colombia

In Colombia, there are 4 Lutheran schools. Two of the schools (El Cocuy and Paz de Ariporo) are elementary schools, and the other two are elementary through high school (Bogota - San Lucas and Sogamoso). One of the goals of the last couple of years has been strengthening how the four schools work together - sharing experiences, knowledge, and resources. This past Friday, the teachers from all the schools had a retreat, for the first time ever!
All the teachers!

It was very exciting to bring in 75 teachers from all over the country, for them to meet each other and share a day together.

Teachers from San Lucas - Bogota
We divided the group into 7 small groups so the teachers would get a chance to meet teachers from other schools. We had seven stations, each with a different activity that the groups rotated through. My station was "demostrando talentos" - showing talents! Each group had to discover the talents of the others in their group and figure out a way they could show the talents to the rest of the groups in a talent show of sorts at the end of the day. Some of the groups created little dramas, one did a group dance, one sang, and one even created a pyramid.

One of the groups at my station - making a pyramid to show their talents.

Some of the other stations were deeper - talking about the difficulties of being a teacher, or how to better communicate.
Teachers from El Cocuy
 At the end of the day there was a small gift exchange (exchanging candy bars, desserts, nail polish, and other small gifts).
Teachers from Sogamoso
The teachers all left with a renewed sense of calling to teach young people and a renewed energy to do so.  This was the first of what we are hoping becomes an annual activity.


Teachers from Paz de Ariporo (I love that they wore matching shirts!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Transformative Communities

Last Saturday, the 10th of September, we held our final workshop of this year with the congregation of the Divine Redeemer in the city of Bucaramanga. We planned a series of three workshops: the first focused on local peace-building and small daily acts; the second was putting that local peace-building into action as we spent a day at the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims, planting trees, learning about the work of the farm, and discussing the need to protect the vulnerable as a way of building peace.

Here is Pastor Sergio Talero, pastor of the Divine Redeemer congregation in Bucaramanga, introducing the workshop and summarizing a little of what was learned in the workshops leading up to this one. Photo by Guillermo Gil.
For this third and final workshop in the process with this congregation, we focused on how to be a transformative community. The congregation along with landmine survivors who live at the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims discussed the need for the local congregation to be involved in building peace in its surrounding community and city, as well as different ways to do that. We finished the workshop with a liturgy for peace-building.

During the peace-building liturgy we used the offering time for the participants to offer symbols of peace. They ranged from food and water to rubber boots (as a gift to those who live and work on the Farm for Landmine Victims). Photo by Guillermo Gil.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From Conflict to Communion

This last Saturday, August 26th, the “House of Reconciliation and Peace Education” of the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Medellin held a workshop to close its second module in its yearlong certificate program called “Conflict, Justice and Reconciliation”. The main theme of the workshop was about what has been the role of churches in confronting conflicts of the society in which they exist.

We focused on the experiences of the Lutheran Church in the struggle for independence in Namibia, the role of the recently arrived Lutheran Church after the Rwandan genocide, as well as the current role of the ELCA regarding immigration in the USA, though its initiatives such as AMMPARO and its Guardian Angels program, as well as local congregations’ involvement in the New Sanctuary Movement. All three of these examples were discussed as models for church involvement in their society’s conflicts.

The title of the workshop “From Conflict to Communion” is an exploration of the stages of overcoming conflict. The process is a pilgrimage. In the current reality of Colombia, regarding the Final Agreement between the Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), as well as the current negotiations between the Government and the ELN (National Liberation Army), there are great challenges to be confronted in implementation and overcoming. The role of churches will be crucial.


The closing act of the workshop was an activity discussing community strength, demonstrating that if somebody falls the community can hold them up. Photo by John Hernandez. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Economically Studying the Bible

This August, we started a process in the congregation Vida Nueva (New Life) Lutheran Church in Bogota, about economically studying the Bible. The community has expressed great interest in the theme, including last year when we held a workshop to look into Solidarity Economy: a grassroots and bottom-up method of creating the economy wanted for and by the community, grounded in principles of solidarity, mutualism, cooperation and equity.

It was after that workshop that the congregation began looking for ways to delve deeper and work on figuring out its opportunities and possibilities. For the next two months, every Sunday the congregation will be studying the economy from the Bible. We started the first study with a general defining of the term economy and an overview of economic themes found in the Bible, starting with the formative event of liberation from slavery in Egypt, the economy of manna in the desert, the jubilee laws of forgiving debts, redistributing land, releasing the captives, and more. In the weeks ahead, we will go deeper into these stories, and many others, looking at the opportunities for the congregation to involve itself locally in creating the economy according to those principles being identified in these studies.

Here I am going over the definition of 'economy'. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Freed to Lead - National Women's Retreat

Monday I came back to Bogota completely filled, renewed, and exhausted from the weekend I spent as a participant at the National Women's Retreat.

Group photo with everyone wearing our brand new Katalina Von Bora shirts (Martin Luther's wife) who was a very important woman in the history of the Reformation. There were also participants from Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and from the Southeastern Synod of Minnesota. Photo credit: Jorge Diaz, communications IELCO
128 women from all around Colombia came together to celebrate the anniversary of the 500 years since the Reformation, to renew relationships and to learn. The theme for the weekend was "Freed to Lead". The whole weekend was focused around the 4 questions: Freed through what?, Freed from what?, Freed by whom?, and Freed for what? The retreat included a time for the business of the women, where there were elections for the new leadership. We also worshiped, had devotions together (including a devotion led by our sisters from SE MN Synod - which they led in Spanish), laughed together, ate together, had a talent show, and even a craft project. Here a few of the many pictures I took.

Pastora Angelica leading the session "Freed from what?" and Pastor Consuelo (on the right) showing how we are enslaved and need to be set free. 

The newly elected council of the women (on the far left is also Pastor Consuelo who is the coordinator, her face is a little cut out). 

The women from Vida Nueva, the church where we attend in Bogota when we are not traveling. You will also notice a few men in the photo, the music team from Vida Nueva led all the music all weekend, these men are part of the music team. Photo credit: Jorge Diaz, Communications IELCO

This is Kathy Chatelaine, the Coordinator for Global Mission Relationships for the Southeastern Minnesota Synod and Pastor Stephanie Wood, also Southeastern MN synod. They came to participate and learn from and about the women of IELCO in true accompaniment spirit. It was a blessing to have them at the retreat.  This was a photo station for the talent show night. 
 
The sending blessings to all the participants was a few drops of perfume to always remember that we are called to service, and to remember the promise of Jesus to the woman who washed his feet with perfume - 'you will be remembered for your service'. It was a powerful closing worship service. 

One of the decorations showing our transformation as women. I can't thank the women who organized this and participated in this enough. What a blessing I feel to have participated. Thank you IELCO women - well done! 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Planting Trees and Reconciliation

The Lutheran congregation in the city of Bucaramanga, The Divine Redeemer, has been working on strengthening its relationship with the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims. They invited the Justice and Life project of IELCO to accompany them in this process. So far this year we have completed two workshops. The first one at the church building with members of the farm invited to participate, and the second workshop was done July 15th at the farm.
On the left is Pastor Sergio, beginning the day with a devotional about the churches 'ministry of reconciliation' with church members and members of the farm. Photo by Curtis Kline.
At the farm we talked about reconciliation and the protection of life and the work for peace. At the request of the farm, we then planted 30 trees. The trees were chosen by the members of the farm to help block out the sound and smell of a nearby sugar factory. The Justice and Life project has accompanied the church and the members of the farm in conversations about conflict resolution and peace-building in the day-to-day, as well as how the church can better accompany the farm.

Planting trees at the farm. Photo by Curtis Kline.
Apolinar Ramirez Ayala, member of the farm of rehabilitation. With the support of the farm he has graduated from high school and is studying diesel motor maintenance. Photo by Alexis Aubin (communications director for the campaign Colombia Contra Minas - Colombia Against Mines)
In September at the third workshop, also to be held at the farm, where we will monitor the growth of the trees, and plan the continuation of the accompaniment between the church and the farm.

Planting more trees. Photo by Curtis Kline.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mid-Year Evaluation Education

Every ministry within IELCO has a mid-year evaluation (in addition to the end of the year evaluation). The idea is to see how everyone and every project is progressing with their goals for the year. A few weeks ago Curtis wrote about the mid-year evaluation for Diakonia (if you missed the post, you can read about it here).

Last weekend the Education Ministry had their evaluation. The Education Ministry is made up of 4 1/2 projects: The Lutheran School of Theology (ELT), Christian Formation (which is paired with, but technically a separate project, Leadership and Formation), The Lutheran Schools (CELCO), and The Emmaus Road Foundation. This is the first time the Education Ministry has had their own evaluation, making it a very important step forward in the strengthening of the ministry as a whole, and not individual projects.

One activity we did, broken up into the people representing the different projects was to each make a tree. The roots of the tree were all the same - the pedagogy model, Lutheran identity, and structuring the ministry. The idea is that those are the "roots" where the work in each of these projects in based. The trunks of the trees were the results, the branches were products, the little branches were the difficulties, the fruits were the products, the flowers the things learned, and the leaves activities. As you can see from the photo below, these are busy projects!
A collage of the different trees made at the evaluation, in the upper left is from the CELCOs, bottom left is the Emmaus Road Foundation, and the right is the Christian Formation and Leadership and Formation (I participated in the Christian Formation group and think it was a great exercise and love how our tree turned out). 

Here is the group at the end of the day. In the front row, left to right: Alexandra (Foundation), Zulma, (Formation), Stella (Foundation). Back row, left to right: Pastor Maria Elena (CELCO, Paz de Ariporo), William (CELCO, Paz de Ariporo, Judith (Formation), Yesid (CELCO, El Cocuy), Belky (coordinator of the whole education ministry), Nubia (CELCO, Bogota), Elizabeth (leading the evaluation), me, Benjamin (blue shirt, CELCO, Sogamoso), Mauricio (orange, Formation), Bishop Atahualpa.