Tuesday, August 30, 2016

¡Por eso es que hoy tenemos esperanza!

Last Wednesday, the 24th of August, The Government of Colombia and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) announced that they had reached the conclusion of their negotiations and the peace accords were ready to be signed. This is such an exciting time for Colombia, especially to be here accompanying the people who are working for peace! After more than 50 years of armed conflict between the government and the FARC, and now, after four years of negotiating, the country is ready to take a giant step towards peace.

The work of the churches in supporting this has been crucial, and will continue to be as the country struggles for the full implementation of the agreements. In fact, DIPAZ, the Inter-Church Dialogue for Peace, which the Lutheran Church of Colombia is a member, has been very involved in pressing the negotiating teams to keep at it, and was even mentioned by name in the final agreement document!

In the evening of Thursday the 25th of August, DIPAZ held an ecumenical worship gathering to celebrate this giant step. The evening began with the song called ¡Por eso es que hoy tenemos esperanza! (Because of this we are filled with hope). A great song, worth listening to:

In an atmosphere full of hope we understood this achievement as “good news” that will lead to the transformation of the conflict in Colombia. Here is the official declaration from DIPAZ after hearing the announcement.

Ecumenical worship celebration of the announcement of the final peace agreement at the
Mennonite church in Bogota. Photo by DIPAZ.
Andres Alba of the Lutheran Church of Colombia reflecting on the
 Sermon on the Mount and "Blessed be the peacemakers..." 
Photo by DIPAZ. 
The next step in this process comes on October 2 of this year. A plebiscite will be held for the citizens to vote “yes” or “no” on whether or not they accept the agreement between the government and the FARC, legally mandating all future administrations to implement it.

There was a lot of celebration in the air here in Bogota on the night of the 24th, as well as all over Colombia. This article from the Colombian newspaper, El Tiempo, shows many photos of the joy and celebration. For those who read Spanish, here is the complete text (297 pages) of the final agreement.

A lot of difficult, yet exciting, work ahead as the IELCO continues to define and act on its role as an actor for peace and justice in Colombian society.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


We are back in Colombia, and back at work full swing. I spent last weekend with the leadership group (ProFILE). If you heard us speak over the summer, you heard me talk about the importance of lay leadership, and lay leadership training. For this year, 2016, the ProFILE training will be 4 retreats, this was the 3rd. 

There is so much I could write about. The theme for the weekend was Liturgy and Diakonia, Pastor Jairo Suarez was the lead speaker, and just like last year (and please do read to refresh the ins and outs and more technical parts of the retreat) he did a great job. 

Saturday evening, every congregation brought a Luther Rose to gift to another congregation. Part of this gift also says our congregation is praying for your congregation. This was such a special night, and during this exchange I saw transformation happen. I watched the whole Colombian church get smaller, closer together, and become more of a family. It was beautiful to watch. This group had taken so much care in the gifts they brought. 
The ProFILE 2016 group with their gifts, Photo credit: my camera taken by someone from the retreat center
This retreat was in Villavicencio. This is one of the cities that is without a pastor, and has been for almost 2 years. For our Sunday closing worship, we invited the whole congregation to come and worship with us, break bread, and after worship share a meal together. 

The whole congregation from Villavicencio along with the participants from ProFILE
One of the requirements to graduate from ProFILE is to attend all of the retreats. Julian missed the 3rd one last year, so he came this year to fulfill his requirements. At the close of the worship he graduated, it was very special, extra special because he is from Villavicencio and therefore graduated in front of his family and church. He proceeded to tell the congregation about the importance of ProFILE, and thanking them for the opportunity. 
Pastor Ata presenting Julian with his certificate

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What is Justice?

Recently, all tenth graders from the Saint Luke’s Lutheran School, in southern Bogota, were taken on a field trip to visit a prison in Bogota. The prison, “La Modelo”, is infamous for horrendous treatment of prisoners; here is a documentary for anyone interested.

The school then invited the Human Rights Program of the Lutheran Church, to spend some time talking with the students, helping them unpack what they witnessed during their visit. We focused on themes of justice; that there are many different ideas of what constitutes justice.  We had some great conversations with the students, beginning by asking if what they saw during their visit was in fact justice, as the prison is part of the “Justice System”. The discussion then went to compare justice as defined by humans with God’s justice. The students had a great time drawing/painting their thoughts on these issues.
Curtis helping the groups of 10th graders discuss "justice". Photo by Sara Lara.
Students of the 10th grade with their artful reflection, including justice as love, grace, forgiveness. Photo by Curtis Kline.
10th grade students artfully reflecting on their experience. Photo by Curtis Kline.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

And we are back!

It was almost 3 months ago we wrote our last blog. The last 3 months have been a whirlwind of leaving Colombia, Home Assignment in the US (2 1/2 months), and returning to Colombia. During Home Assignment we visited churches in Colorado, South Carolina, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We attended the Summer Missionary Conference just outside Chicago, and Curtis presented at the World Hunger Leadership Gathering in Chicago. We visited with friends and family. And so much more!

Sporting our Colombian colors!
Upper left: Curtis and his best friend Andrew
Upper right: Katie and her niece, photo credit Curtis
Bottom: Colombia Ops Team from the Southeastern MN, photo credit Pastor Mark Johnson
The name of our blog is 8000 Feet and Counting (because of the elevation of Bogota, which is just over 8500 feet). So to stick with the tradition of counting things, here are some counting we did during our Home Assignment. We drove over 8000 miles! A huge thank you to my Mom and Dad who loaned us my Mom's car for the majority of that driving, as well as Curtis' parents for loaning us his Mom's car and renting us a car, and Andrew and Leah who loaned us their car. We also stayed in 30 different houses/hotels....I can't list all the gracious people who housed us, but I can say, every single place we were so warmly welcomed and attended to. Thank you! We visited 14 different congregations, attended the South Carolina Synod Assembly, Curtis preached 9 different sermons (each was based on the Lectionary text for that week and how it related to Colombia and our work in Colombia) but because many churches had more than one service, he preached more than 9 times, and I lost count of the number of presentations.

Left: Curtis preaching at St John's Lutheran Church in Northfield, MN.
Upper right: Katie with Pastor Vera at Evergreen Lutheran Church in Evergreen, CO
2nd right:Our display table at St John's Lutheran Church in Beaufort, SC
3rd right: Katie giving the Children's sermon at Faith Lutheran in Dodge Center, MN
4th right: Welcome sign (special for us) at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Johnston, SC
We celebrated my Dad and his twin brother's 70th birthday with a surprise party. Visited my grandparents in Duluth, MN (not really grandparents, but I call them that). Visited with both of Curtis' grandpas. Visited with lots of extended family. Met our niece for the first time - now a year and a half old! Also, visited our other niece and nephew, who are now 9 1/2 and 4 (they've changed so much)....and visited with so many friends.

Happy birthday to my Dad and Uncle Denny! Left photo: Uncle Denny (left) and Dad with their birthday cakes
Right: My Dad and his siblings together for the birthday party, who came from all over the country to celebrate (left to right) Uncle Denny (Arizona), Aunt Julie (Minnesota), Aunt Elaine (Colorado), Dad (Wisconsin)
And some great family time! Upper left photo: Curtis and his Grandpa Kline.
Upper right: Katie's (Andert) family (photo credit, Katie with a timer).
Lower left: Katie's 'grandparents', Don and Barb Garnett, Duluth, MN (photo credit, Bob Garnett).
Lower right, Curtis (Kline) family (photo credit Katie with a timer). 

And some photos are too cute not to share: Curtis and his nephew...no doubt they are related! 

Curtis with what we brought back to Colombia with us!
Last Wednesday as we finished our Home Assignment we packed everything up, and flew back to Colombia! Thank you to everyone we saw and everyone we met. Thank you to all who welcomed us, the churches who sponsor us, and the churches who support and are interested in Colombia. Thank you to all who listened to our stories and asked such thoughtful (and difficult) questions. The time went too fast, but we are so thankful for the time together.  

P.S. We will return to our regular schedule of blogging every Tuesday, starting next week.