Thursday, May 28, 2015

ProFILE: Leadership Retreat

Last weekend (May 16-17) I helped lead a retreat for lay leaders (people who are not pastors) within IELCO. I could sum up the whole weekend just by saying awesome! ProFILE (yes, think of the English pronunciation of the word, which is part of our branding for this group) stands for the Spanish translation of: ‘The Integral Training Program for the Church Leadership’. This was the first training of four this year, with four more trainings next year. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will show you the weekend through my pictures: 

The ProFILE leaders!

One of the first games we played was called "STOP". A word game with one of the categories about the characteristics of a leader (LIDER). Here the participants are sharing their ides of the characteristics of a leader (corresponding with each letter of leader = lider in Spanish).

Here is a close up of the 'tela azul' (the blue cloth you will see in many of the pictures....aka the magic cloth). With a little bit of non-permanent spay glue on the cloth, any kind of paper basically turns into a post-it note! Here is a close up of the words people wrote, they were great, words like: loyal, responsible, fun, integrity, diligent, etc. It was a great exercise.

This is a picture of Zulma (who I accompany in many projects) teaching about the different things we can from Jesus and his leadership styles - having a clear focus/objective and having a clear methodology (which may change depending of the group you are working with).
One of the activities I lead was for the part intrapersonal. There were four groups, and every group was given one piece of a puzzle, the groups had to race to find the rest of the pieces of their puzzle hidden anywhere outside of the retreat center where we were. This also became one of the jokes of the weekend because one of the pieces of one of the puzzles blew away...oops! After this activity every person was given a piece of paper with some thought points to journal about. During the sharing time after I was shocked at how honest people were about their fears of leadership, their dreams for the church, or their struggles with their own congregations. Very powerful time!
Another activity using the magic cloth. This is Henry sharing what his group discussed during the session about one to one leadership. We had each group look at different teacher/student relationships in the Bible and share what they learned.
Legos, yes like the kid toys. This was an activity in leading small groups. Every group had one leader. That person was the only person in the group who could look at the figure all put together. The leader had to try to explain to his/her group what the figure they were building should look like; the catch, they couldn't touch any of the pieces.
Here are Mauricio and Cristian looking at the little truck so they can report their findings back to their groups. This proved to be a very difficult activity with only one of the four groups getting the figure correct.

Here is another one of the groups working (this was the winning group)! It was a very fun activity with a lot of great processing after about what type of communication worked and what didn't work as well.
Enjoying a campfire, with songs and marshmallows! 

Final one, too good not to share; the group. (photo by Atahaulpa Hernandez)
This truly was an incredible weekend. There were a lot of games played, lots of conversations had, and even more learning. I think it is safe to say that everyone walked away from the weekend feeling a renewed sense of calling to the church, a deeper understanding of what it means to be a leader, and excited for the upcoming retreats.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Economic Justce and Peace

“Human impoverishment, excessive accumulation and consumerism driven by greed, gross economic disparities, and the degradation of nature are incompatible with this reign of God.”
-Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A Social Statement on: Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All. 1999

The Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO) is divided into four regions (Centro, Llanos, Boyaca, Oriente). This year the human rights program is doing four workshops (one per region), in two different themes, for a total of 8 workshops. The first workshop is 'Economic Justice and Peace' (the second is in the theme of reconciliation, which I will write about soon). We have finished the first two workshops of the Economic Justice theme, one in the city of Paz de Ariporo (Llanos Region) and another in the city of Sogamoso (Boyaca Region). The opportunity to see more of Colombia and to meet people from various walks of life has been the best part of these workshops.

The goal of the workshop is to sensitize and train leaders of the various congregations of the IELCO in the theme of economic justice and peace and to strengthen their capacities to protect and promote economic, social, and cultural rights at the local level. During these workshops, economic justice is understood as the utilization of the means of livelihood available to meet the basic needs of all in a distributive and equitable manner. From the human rights perspective, economic justice is understood as the full enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights for all. The challenges faced concerning unemployment, lack of access to adequate healthcare, progressive indebtedness of members and congregations, all affect the life of the community, and all are part of the justice or injustice as part of economic life.

The first workshop in Paz de Ariporo was attended by the four congregations that the IELCO has in the region, as well as members from the local association of pastors and representatives from the local association of Afro-Colombians. The local association of pastors is in a certification process with the local government and their attendance in the workshop was able to help them move along in their process. They were excited to learn that they would receive a certificate to present to the local government in order to gain the credit from participating in the workshop from the Lutheran Church.
Participants from the workshop in Paz de Ariporo, after they recieved their certificates from the workshop. (Photo by Milton Mejia)
The conversations were rich as we discussed the theological foundation for concern in this area of justice. As we moved into the more practical discussions regarding the churches capacity to address issues of economic injustice at the local level, the group grew even more energized. Ideas to confront issues of the lack of healthcare, of polluted water, of deforestation, were all exciting to hear as the connections were being made between these issues and the economic life of the community.

Pastor Edwyn from the IELCO with Pastor Maria Elena (also from the IELCO) to the right and Ana Egla Conde to the left and member of the IELCO discussing how to overcome some of their local issues. (Photo by Milton Mejia)
During the second workshop, held in the city of Sogamoso, the congregations from the region participated as well as pastors from other local churches. The conversations here were also very rich, from a different context, different geography, and different issues being faced. With the discussions of how the community can tend to its people and work towards protecting and promoting its economic life comes a stirring sense of empowerment that is inspiring to witness.

Harol Saurez from the church in Sogamoso discussing how to define "adequate standard of living". (Photo by Milton Mejia)
Participants came up to me afterwards to brainstorm ideas of implementing educational curriculum on this topic in all of the schools in their city, ideas for reforestation projects to keep air clean and therefore to keep people healthier, ideas for the creation of a human rights educational center in their city, and many more. While it is likely that not all of these projects will come to fruition, I feel very honored and excited to help these communities work through some of their issues and creatively address them.