Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Diploma and Celebration

Last Saturday, November 18th, we held the year’s final workshop at the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education, a ministry of the Emmaus Lutheran Church, in the city of Medellin. This workshop was the final gathering of a yearlong certificate process called “Conflict, Justice, and Reconciliation”, in which the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Medellin organized trainings on a number of issues regarding peace-building efforts in the city and in Colombia in general.

The workshop group after lunch. Photo by Pastor John Hernandez.
This was the first year of the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education and the certificate training course was the first project. We focused this final workshop on exploring the relationship between four main components of reconciliation which they have been focusing on in the certificate course: justice, truth, forgiveness, and love. We explored how these four can interact in order to strengthen peace-building initiatives, and how they relate to the current process of Colombia regarding transitional justice mechanisms, truth seeking processes which will hopefully lead to forgiveness, and how love holds it all together.

The personification of truth, justice, love and forgiveness in a group interview about peace-building in Colombia. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.
As we finished the workshop, 15 excited members of the House of Reconciliation received their diplomas. This left a lot of excitement for future plans of working towards implementing in practice all that they have been studying this year.

Everyone with their diplomas at the end of the day. Photo by a member of the House of Reconciliation.

Adi Martinez, member of the House of Reconciliation and student of Theology, after receiving her diploma. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Commemorating the Reformation

Around the world, commemorations of the 500 years of the reformation have been occurring, remembering all the many changes that have happened due to the reformation which started in 1517. Here in Colombia, commemorations are happening as well. Sunday, October 22nd, at New Life (Vida Nueva) Lutheran Church in Bogota, a special worship service was held with a guest panel to discuss the history of the reformation, and its impacts on the IELCO today.  The women’s ministry of the church also held a ‘Dinner with Katarina’, a program to share the impacts women had on the reformation (but often not remembered in history books).

The women of Vida Nueva (New Life) sharing stories of specific women who made the reformation possible.
This last Sunday, October 29th, an ecumenical worship service was held with IELCO’s partners in DIPAZ (Inter-church Dialogue for Peace) at the dedication of the new Lutheran church-building in Caracoli, southern Bogota, a community of people mostly displaced from the Colombian conflict which IELCO has been accompanying for 20 years now. The focus of the worship service was on reconciliation, a central focus of DIPAZ, both ecumenically as well as in the current reality of Colombia’s peace process.

Pastor Jairo Suarez leading the worship service at Luz y Vida (Light and Life) in Caracoli, in the brand new temple.
From Left to Right: Sara Lara, coordinator of Justicia y Vida (Justice and Life project) of IELCO, Pastor Jairo Suarez of IELCO, Jenny Neme, director of Justapaz (Mennonite advocacy organization), Pator Nelson Celis of IELCO, and Curtis.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's Happening with ProFILE

During 2015 and 2016, you got used to seeing several posts about ProFILE - the leadership formation training we were doing. Don't worry, we haven't stopped! In 2017, we kicked off the year with a large training weekend with both the 2015 and 2016 groups. The groups were then given work to do in their regions to plan a mini-retreat. During September and October the retreats have been happening - with the last retreat happening this weekend.

It was a small group, but excellent leaders! The leaders who planned did a great job - I see a lot of potential with this new group of leaders. Photo credit, retreat center employee. 
Last week I went to Bucaramanga (Eastern Region) to accompany and support the leaders there as they led the retreat. It was so powerful to see the work that has been poured into these leaders coming into fruition. They were in charge of all aspects including finding a retreat center, inviting the leaders, and planning the material (using the material they had been given). 

Here a few of the pictures from the weekend. (As is my tradition from the other ProFILEs, pictures speak louder than words).
Activity lead by Zulma to introduce her opening theme. The group needed to pass the water, in their hands, to fill the pitcher.

Belky leading the group, Belky was a graduate of 2015 ProFILE. 

Maribel was also a graduate of ProFILE 2016, she made these gifts for each of the participants (I received a little bumblebee). 

Here I am with Marlon, from Piedecuesta, who is planning to start ProFILE in 2018. Photo credit, Zulma Ojeda. 

Since I was invited, they also asked me to lead a portion on Spiritual Gifts. Here is the activity to discuss that we all have spiritual gifts, and we are one body - complimenting each others gifts. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Church's Action on Food

This week, the 8-15 of October, IELCO is celebrating the Church’s Week of Action on Food. We opened the week on Sunday with three worship services (in Bogota, Bucaramanga, and Medellin) with a focus on the centrality of food in our lives and our ability to impact the issues of hunger, malnutrition, and food justice.  
The promotional poster for the week, designed by Pastor John Hernandez.
The rest of this week will be filled with devotionals, videos, readings, and much more. On Thursday, October 12th, Pastor Nelson Celis will host a radio program with various guests from around Colombia to discuss issues of food, and especially issues of seed privatization.

In the San Pablo (St. Paul) congregation in southern Bogota, we held a photo exhibition of the areas of the country where the majority of food is grown and harvested and the people that live there and grow the food. Photo by Curtis Kline.
In San Pablo, a number of urban farmers and gardeners were invited to share their experiences and sell some of their products. Photo by Curtis Kline.
We are celebrating this week together with the Free Seeds Network of Colombia, a network that has been building a relationship of accompaniment with IELCO over the last year.

Also, in the congregation of Divino Redentor in Bucaramanga, local producers were invited to share their stories and sell their products. Photo by Pastor Sergio Talero.
Here is the link for the website. Also, you can follow our Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Living Amazon, Safe Humanity

The Amazon basin is shared by many countries in South America: Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, French Guyana, Guyana, and Suriname). Within all of these countries, the Amazon basin is home to a number of Indigenous Peoples. Due to the increasing pressures from diverse mega-projects like highway construction, mining, mono-culture plantations, and more, these Indigenous Peoples are being pushed out of their homes. Most of these projects take place without previously consulting or gaining consent from the Indigenous communities that will be affected.

Indigenous demonstrators setting up around the offices of the Ministry of the Environment, Photo by Curtis Kline.
Last Friday, September 22, COICA РCoordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin), declared an International Mobilization in those countries. They also decided that every September 22 will be a day of international mobilization to protect the Amazon basin and the peoples who live there.

David Kawooq, member of the Colombian rock band Doctor Krapula, leading the demonstrators in some songs. Photo by Curtis Kline
In Bogota, I observed a demonstration held outside of the National Government’s Ministry of the Environment (which recently gave a green light to the practice of fracking in these territories). OPIAC (Indigenous Peoples’ Organization of the Colombian Amazon) presented a list of demands, such as inviting international human rights observers to verify the damage caused by those megaprojects, titling the traditional territories to the peoples who live there, and supporting the traditional livelihoods of the Indigenous Peoples who depend on the Amazon environment. They also connected the issues to the recent peace accords between the Government and the FARC, and the current negotiations with the ELN; stating the necessity of effective participation for all in order to guarantee a peace in the differing territories of Colombia.

The slogan of the demonstration was Amazonia Viva, Humanidad Segura (Living Amazon, Safe Humanity). 

Indigenous leaders of OPIAC, announcing their demands. They are facing the office building oft he Ministry of the Environment. Photo by Curtis Kline.

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.