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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

National Teachers Gathering

In Colombia there are four Lutheran Schools: in Bogota, Sogamoso, El Cocuy, and Paz de Ariporo. These are spread out throughout the country, and because of the distance between the schools, they seldom interact. Last October, we (the Ministry of Education) brought all the teachers from all the schools together for a day. It was a huge success and the teachers requested it be an annual event. Last Friday, we held the 2nd National Teachers Gathering. The goal of the day is three-fold: an element of education, an element of getting to know the other teachers from the other schools, and an element of fun!

The education piece of the Gathering was around the new Child Protection Policy of the church. The schools each have a similar policy already, but need to become familiar with the national policy and adapt their own policies accordingly. We had guest speakers from World Vision come in and talk about the importance of implementing these policies and really understanding why they are necessary.

Some of the teachers working in small groups, photo by Katie

The afternoon was made up of games and other activities for the professors to get to know each other and enjoy time together. There was a soccer game, volleyball game, painting nails, board games and I was in charge of a craft project. 

For the craft project we decorated candles. Everyone was very creative. Pictures on the left take by Katie, and on the right by Mauricio Mendez. 

Picture of all the teachers, photo by Katie

Teachers from El Cocuy (they each teach two grades), photo by Katie

Teachers from San Lucas in Bogota. The book they are holding is the new copy of the Child Protection Policy. Photo by Katie

Teachers from Sogamoso. Photo by Katie

Teachers from Paz de Ariporo, photo by Katie. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Leadership Retreat

I have written several times about ProFILE, the lay leadership training retreats we lead here. The is the third group to start the process (2015, 2016 and now 2018). ProFILE is now a very well recognized and respected training program within IELCO.

Last weekend we held the third retreat of four for the year. The weekend focused on how we interpret the Bible. The group wrestled with this topic for the weekend, but at the end, as they shared their highlights from the weekend, it was obvious that the weekend had had a big impact on them.


We played a "board" game, and one team member from each of the teams was the place marker. The game had questions about Lutheran doctrine to get everyone warmed up to the theme. Photo by Katie. 

Lots of small group work. Left to right Marleny, Airet, Laura Camila, and Maily. photo by Katie

More small group work - the group hard at work reading some very deep theological analyses about better understanding Biblical interpretation. Photo by Katie 

All of the participants have homework after every retreat. Here Lina (our youngest at just 14 years old) is sharing her homework with the group. Photo by Katie

The whole group debating about what it means that Jesus is the "Cannon of the Cannon" (he is the lens through which we read and understand the Bible). Photo by Katie

The whole group. As you can see we were in a beautiful place with gorgeous scenery. This is an incredible group of leaders within IELCO, a variety of ages, a  variety of life experiences, representing almost all the churches in IELCO.
Photo by Juan Sebastian Cruz, one of the participants (in the front row with the black and white scarf)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Medellin +50, part 2



At the conference “Medellin +50: The Cry of the Poor, A Cry for Life”, in addition to the structure of the conversations and presentations which I wrote about in the blog post last week, there were also special events and activities held.

During the week of the conference, there were a couple of mural artists who had prepared for a communal process of painting a giant mural together.  Throughout the conference, when there was down time, people were able to pass by and see the progress of the mural and help paint a part of it, if they were so inclined. The mural was based in the famous phrase, connected to the Medellin conference of 1968: “Another World is Possible”. The artists took suggestions from the participants of the conference about what that world might look like as well as the symbols of hope that we have to maintain faith in its possibilities.

The final product of the collective mural painting at the conference. Photo by Katie.
At the presentation of the mural, a participant of the conference read the "parable of the hummingbird" to explain why the hummingbirds on the mural were symbols of hope. Photo by Katie. Here is a link to the parable.
 This is a video made by the mural artists that shows the progress of the mural throughout the week.

Another special event during the conference was the public act of asking for forgivingness. It was recognized that many of those who had faithfully worked on implementing the outcome documents from the 1968 conference have been persecuted, as it inevitably led them to confrontations with economic and political powers. Forgiveness was asked for in the name of the Catholic Church which participated in this persecution. We went to the Museum of Memory in Medellin to hold the event. The Museum has the mission of contributing to the transformation of the logic of war towards more civilized practices, through the construction and circulation of the memories of the victims of the armed conflict, and cultural expressions as commemorations.


Father Tacho, opening the liturgy to ask for forgiveness. Photo by Katie.

Specific leaders who were committed to the 1968 outcome documents, were recognized in the persecution they recieved, among them were: OScar Romero, Gerardo Valencia Cano, Samuel Ruiz, lay people from the OcaƱa community in Colombia, amongst others. Photo by Katie. 

Reverend Emilie Smith, Co-President of SICSAL (International Christian Service in Solidarity with the Peoples of Latin America) asking forgiveness from the victims. Photo by Katie.
From the closing paragraph Final Statement (commitments made) put together at the conference:

Finally, we ask God, our Father and our Mother, to help us be faithful to the words we have spoken here at this gathering, Medellin +50, and to the spirit that has come out of it, infecting us with the hope filled energy of the better world that is possible. This better world will be possible with the commitment of women, men, children and youth, indigenous peoples, afro-descendants, mestizos, who were physically present at the gathering and those that were spiritually present from different parts of the world.