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. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

By Faith and Grace, View from the Cross

Pastor John Hernández at the Mission Emmaus Lutheran Church in the city of Medellin, Colombia has been doing a lot to prepare for the celebration this year of the 500th year of the Reformation. One way he has been doing this is through a short weekly radio program discussing principles of Lutheran theology. These programs are called “By Faith and Grace”. This is the second episode I have translated here. The audio link (in Spanish) is also included.

https://soundcloud.com/john-hernandez-9/mirar-desde-la-cruz?in=john-hernandez-9/sets/por-gracia-y-fe

  View from the Cross, by Pastor John Hernández

“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross”. Philippians 2: 6-8

There is a great difference between God as we would like God to be and God as revealed to us. However, we have no other place to meet God but the place in which God has spoken clearly: Jesus Christ who is the Word.

Theses 19 and 20 of Luther’s Heidelberg disputation, introduced in 1518, read as follows: That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. He deserves to be a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

The idea raised by Luther in this debate is so important that it gave name to the theology of the Lutheran church: The Theology of the Cross. And what does it consist of? In that we should not try to know God from God’s majesty, power and glory. Whenever we do, we will end up with a mirage.

It is only possible to access God as God is revealed to us, that is, from the cross. From fragility, from humility, from approaching human experience in its condition of greatest need. That is why the theology of the cross avoids talking about God in a speculative way, of what we cannot understand and always refers us to the experience of Christ, Him, whom we can trust.

In thesis 21, Luther also said: A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

Learning to look from the cross means to discern God in the midst of pain and suffering and to understand that God’s will is to manifest God's-self, to transform the world. Let us be careful not to lose ourselves in the search for the idols of glory that delude us with power, prosperity and miracles. And let us acknowledge the God who comes to meet us and embrace us.

Let us prayLord: Help me to look with your eyes. I want to feel with your heart. I do not want to live anymore being insensitive. Amen

Here is the link to the audio

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Diakonia Mid-year Evaluation

Last week, the 27th and 28th of June, the national diaconal ministry of IELCO held a mid-year evaluation retreat where all the projects looked back on how the year has gone so far and what goals have been met, what improvements can be made, etc.

Here is the Diakonia team at the Playa Blanca (white beach) at the Tota Lake in Boyaca region of Colombia. During the retreat we also had some time together to relax and have fun. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez 
In all of the evaluations, the coordinators and other project professionals receive training in a specific area of expertise of one of their co-workers. In this evaluation it was the responsibility of the Justice and Life project to plan the training. This meant Sara Lara, the coordinator of the project, and me.  We put together a Human Rights-Based Approach to the project evaluation. This meant that all the various projects were evaluated from the point of view of how they are protecting and promoting human rights, and how they could be strengthened in order to better protect and promote human rights.

The principles of a Human Rights-Based Approach are: empowerment, non-discrimination, participation and accountability. These were the areas in which we evaluated the projects. How is the project empowering, for example, all of the participants of the project to take their own action?

The Diakonia team visiting one of the families of the EcoVida project, an environmental and food security project of IELCO. Photo by Pastor Sergio Talero.
We looked at, for example, the EcoVida project, an environmental and food security project which works with farmers in the Boyacá region of Colombia. The project also works to protect a water source, which feeds into the streams and rivers which the farmers all depend on. While the project has many connections to human rights, such as the right to food, and a clean environment, articulating the work of the project with a human rights approach would strengthen its role in empowering the families, making sure no one is left out, and holding to account those responsible for guaranteeing these rights.

The Diakonia team after lunch together. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

National Retreat for Christian Formation

Once every two years, all the Sunday School teachers and educators in IELCO get together for a retreat. Keeping with the celebration theme of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the theme this year was "A Reformation that Transforms Our Way of Thinking". The retreat, June 17-19, was a very full weekend. 

There was so much energy, learning, laughter and renewal that happened, all focusing on the Reformation ways we live our identity as Lutherans. Pictured above was one of the opening sessions led by Pastor Carlos Negron from Puerto Rico. He led all the musical parts. 


Pastor Angelica is leading the part 'Liberating Education', teaching the group what Luther had to say about education (a lot) and the importance of the way we teach. We also studied the 3 'solas' (Word Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone [sometimes Christ Alone is included, but for this retreat we did not have a separate study]). Each topic was led by a different member of the Christian Formation team, Pastor Angelica has been (and will continue to be) the pastoral adviser.


Sunday evening  puppets was led by Jose Arturo Vega from Peru. The group had a great time relaxing a bit after two intense days of workshops and learning. Pictured here, left to right: Cristina Pineros, Carlos Negron, Betty Castelblanco, Carolina Castellanos, Edilberto Chaparro, and Pilar Gonzalez. As you can see, everyone enjoyed making puppets and every puppet was very creative.

At the closing of the retreat Monday afternoon we had cake, again to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Pictured above are the certificates all the participants received, some gift bags for various activities, an umbrella with the Christian Formation logo, a folder of the material for the retreat, and a package of material for each congregation - which was brought from Mt Olive in Rochester, MN when they visited Colombia in March. 

Left to right, Zulma Ojeda, national coordinator of Christian Formation, Ana Maria Jara, came from the Peruvian Lutheran Church for the retreat, she is the Christian Formation coordinator in Peru, Pastor Carlos Negron who led the musical part from Puerto Rico, Jose Arturo Vega from Peru, and Obispo of IELCO, Pastor Atahualpa Hernandez. Photo by Jorge Diaz, communications of IELCO


Here is the team that made the whole thing happen! Christian Formation is made up by a regional coordinator from each of the four regions of IELCO. During the weekend there were also elections for the new coordinators. Above is the picture of the new team (and a few editions for the weekend). Left to right, Mauricio Chala, newly elected to be one of the coordinators in the central region, Pastor Atahualpa Hernandez, Pastor Angelica Bernate - pastoral adviser, Belky Hernandez, coordinator for eastern region, Sara Lara - coordinator of Human Rights (lead a session about the rights of children), Carolina Varon - coordinator for southern central region, Stella Gonzale - coordinator for nothern central region, Judith Leon - coordinator for plains (llanos) region, me, Zulma Ojeda - national coordinator, and Miguel Parada newly elected coordinator for the Boyaca region. Photo by Jorge Diaz.


And the whole group! A great weekend was had by all, friendships made, a lot of learning, and a renewed calling to teach! Photo by Jorge Diaz.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Workshop: Contributions to understanding the armed conflict in Colombia

The Emmaus Lutheran Church in the city of Medellin and its ministry of the “House of Reconciliation and Peace Education” has finished its first module of the certificate program “Conflict, Justice, and Reconciliation”. It has been a process of engaging in sometimes difficult conversations about issues related to peace and justice in Colombia. Every other Saturday, over 20 people (from the church as well as from other churches or other organizations) have been participating in the certificate program, as well as invited leaders from civil society, universities or government agencies to help explain and explore certain themes in the Colombian conflict and the peace-building process.
Logo for the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education, designed by Pastor John Hernández and Daniel Padierna.
To wrap up the first module of the program, I traveled to Medellin and we held an all-day workshop last Saturday the 17th of June. The workshop was titled “Contributions to understanding the armed conflict in Colombia”. We touched on topics such as the centrality of land ownership to the causes of the conflict and the role of the media in producing distrust and biases in the country. While difficult, these conversations are crucial to peace-building and reconciliation in the country.

Members of the certificate program, broken up into small groups to discuss what had been most challenging to them up to now during the certificate program. Photo by Curtis Kline. 
The next module will start at the beginning of July, and will be focused on conflict resolution. From the national to the local to the inter-personal levels, those participating in the certificate program will explore and strengthen their abilities to resolve conflicts in peaceful manners.

On the left, Ady and Maily, on the right, Oscar and Jorge, continuing to discuss the topics of the workshop during a break. Photo by Curtis Kline.