Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Walking in the Grace

"Walking in the Grace" (Caminando en la gracia) is the name of the Vacation Bible School (VBS) material that the churches of IELCO will be using this year. This has been a project that the education team at IELCO, along with other volunteers in the church, has been working on for over 6 months now. With VBS just around the corner - the material is ready!

On Saturday we had a presentation of the material for several teachers, including at least one from each of the four regions of IELCO. This material was made by IELCO, from a grant from Capacitando al Pueblo de Dios, which is part of the ELCA, coordinated by another ELCA missionary in Latin America, Kari Eller.

We shared with the teachers what he methodology used to prepare the material was, what each of the lessons is about, and general tips for a successful VBS. As the Lutherans around the world are gearing up for the 500 Year Celebration of the Reformation, in 2017, one of the goals of this material is to educate the children in VBS about what it means to be Lutheran and to follow Jesus, specifically in Colombia. The material has 5 lessons: Walking with Jesus, The Journey/Paths of the First Christians, Luther, Journey of the First Missionaries, and The Footprints of Jesus Today.

One of the young men in the IELCO offices, Sergio, did all the drawings for the book. Above is one of the drawings. He drew them all to relate to each lesson, and all in the same style to help unify to book. He has incredible talent. 

The material is divided into three categories: ages 3-6, ages 7-10 and ages 11-13. The VBS will be December 14-20 in most of the congregations. I will be helping teach at one of the mission congregations in Caracoli (southern Bogota) along with Zulma ...and my parents! (My parents will be here for Christmas and will be helping with the VBS also.)

This is the group that we shared the material with on Saturday. They will go and share it with their congregations and each lead wonderful VBS, I am sure of that! (The last photo is taken by Pastor Angelica's daughter, age 5, Sara)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Step by Step, Towards Reconciliation

One of the main focus areas this year for the human rights program is the capacity building of the Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO) in the theme of reconciliation. As the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are nearing a final signed peace accord, the IELCO has a great opportunity and responsibility to involve itself in the reconciling work necessary to build a country of peace and justice.

The human rights program has offered a series of regional workshops regarding reconciliation throughout the year, here is an old post I wrote about them. While the main goal of these workshops was to hold discussions on the theme of reconciliation, sensitize church members on its importance, and build the capacity to get involved in reconciliation work, another goal is that the participants would then go back to their home congregation and replicate the conversations and activities.

As the year is nearing an end, and we are in a process of evaluating the activities accomplished, I sent out a survey to all the participants to see how successful this secondary goal had been.

I was happily surprised with the responses:

The congregation of San Pedro (St. Peter) in southern Bogota had held its own workshop, specifically with children and their parents. Their goal was to get the children to feel free talking about the issues surrounding reconciliation from the house, to the church to the city and to the country. The workshop ended with many of the children proposing activities and concrete actions they could do to work towards reconciliation.

Members of San Pedro participating in their local workshop. Photo by Pastor Rocio Morales.

More families of San Pedro in their workshop on reconciliation. Photo by Pastor Rocio Morales.
The congregation of El Divino Redentor (The Divine Redeemer) in Bucaramanga has already been supporting a local project of reconciliation. It is a fascinating project, a farm, where people who have been injured by landmines with ex-combatants (many responsible for planting the landmines) can learn to work together to grow food, take care of animals and hold meaningful discussions about forgiveness, justice and reconciliation.  

The director of this project participated in the workshop of IELCO, and also invited the members of Divino Redentor to participate in a day-long workshop to be held at the farm. Replicating the materials and activities of the workshop from IELCO, church members were given an opportunity to be directly involved in reconciling work in the country at a very meaningful and personal level.
Participants at the workshop at the "Self-sustaining Farm for the Rehabilitation of Victims". Photo by Guillermo Gil.

More participants at the reconciliation workshop at the "Self-sustaining Farm for the Rehabilitation of Victims".
Photo by Guillermo Gil.
The congregation of San Pablo (St. Paul) in southern Bogota has been planning to end the year with a very special worship service, using the workshop on reconciliation as a basis. They are planning to have a worship service in nature, after a short hike outside of Bogota, to focus on reconciliation with all of creation.

It will be exciting to see how these activities continue, how I can support them, and the ways in which they push the church towards its responsibility to work towards the reconciliation of the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Accompaniment of Scholarship Students

One of the projects I have been working on this year is accompanying the Foundation Camino de Emmaus in their workshops. One of the goals of the foundation is to support children in getting an education. They do this through scholarships to students ages 6 through college aged. In all of Colombia they give more than 200 scholarships every year! The foundation is a separate entity from the Lutheran Church, however they work collaboratively, and even have their offices in the same building as the Lutheran Church central offices. The scholarships go to either members of the church or people who are somehow connected to the church. One of the requirements to receive the scholarship is to attend an annual workshop.

The group of students who receive scholarships in Bucaramanga. Alexandra on the right, in the gray striped shirt,
is the projects coordinator and scholarships coordinator for the foundation.