Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I had high hopes of getting a Christmas card sent out this year (like I do every year), but it didn't happen this year (again, as I have never actually succeeded in getting one sent out - but as an optimist, I keep hoping).

Our 2016 Christmas photo. Us after worship on Christmas Eve at Vida Nueva in Bogota.
Photo by Daniel Lara
As this year comes to a close, we have a lot to reflect on throughout 2016: In January my parents were here to visit, and we had the chance to do some tourist things and traveling with them. The year continued on a high note in March when we renewed our contract both with the ELCA and IELCO to stay in Colombia for two more years. In May, a new coordinator was hired to accompany Curtis in the Human Rights program. Our whirlwind of Home Assignment from mid-May through the beginning of August, where we had the opportunity to visit the congregations and people who so generously support us and our work here in Colombia, as well as, of course, the chance to visit family and friends. October brought the death of Laura, the niece of my closest friend and co-worker here, and November brought health issues and surgery for me. November also saw the final signing of the peace agreements in Colombia after more than 5 years of negotiations. In December we took a quick trip to the coast to visit my uncle who passed through on his honeymoon. December also has brought us some much needed time off, where we took a trip to Cali (southern Colombia) for a fun get-a-way. This has been a full year (aren't they all), with so much to be thankful for. Thank you for sharing this year with us!

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to you all! Thank you for your support to us, be it financial, through your friendship, prayer, or by reading our blog - it is all really important to us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Annual Evaluation of Diakonia

Last week, the national diaconal ministry of IELCO held its annual retreat to evaluate all of the programs, projects and activities that took place during 2016. The ministry is divided into four programs: Environment, Human Rights, Holistic Health and Sustainable Development. Out of each of these programs there are various projects which: offer direct service to local communities; develop networks of like-minded people and organizations, nationally and internationally; involve members of IELCO in advocacy opportunities; and train church members in relevant subjects. The overall objective of the national diaconal ministry is: “To contribute to the diaconal development of IELCO in its different contexts, for the improvement of the quality of life of the communities, expressed through service, the lived experience of justice, and the preservation of creation”.

The evaluation was held in the historic town of Villa de Leyva in the department of Boyacá. From right to left: Curtis; Julie Pinzón, participating in the evaluation as representative of the national youth ministry; Rocío Varela, coordinator of the senior citizens project, serving a very vulnerable population just south of Bogota; Zandra Nino, coordinator of the project called ECOVIDA (Ecology and Life), working with poor peasant farmers in the Boyacá region, especially to regain an agricultural lifestyle lost with the coming of coal mines, which are now leaving due to plummeting coal prices; and Jorge Díaz, coordinator of the communications department of IELCO. 
Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.

Sara Lara, coordinator of the human rights program, presenting on the activities of the program during the year. 
Photo by Pastor Rocío Morales 

Right to Left: Curtis; Fabián Bello, coordinator of a food security project as part of the Environmental program;
Pastor Rocío Morales, Vice Bishop of IELCO and coordinator of the ASIVIDA project which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness; Sara Lara, coordinator of the human rights program; and, Julie Pinzón, representative of the national youth ministry. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DIPAZ Conference: Military Doctrine, Non-Violence and Peace-building

In light of the approved peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), DIPAZ (Inter-church Dialogue for Peace) held an important conference on Colombia’s military doctrine and non-violent grassroots efforts.

The advertisement for the conference, designed by Daniel Padierna,a conscientious objector 
and member of the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Medellin.
Colombia practices obligatory military enlistment for all males 18 years old. It is almost impossible for young men to find legitimate work or enter into university or higher education without being able to present the document demonstrating that the service has been completed. There is, however, the possibility of declaring oneself a conscientious objector based on religious beliefs. It is a long and difficult process, but many have done it.

This DIPAZ conference was based on the idea of conscientious objection. However, it also was looking for and defining other possible paths towards the demilitarization of the country and its culture...the idea of a non-violent lifestyle. As Colombia looks forward to building peace after more than 50 years of armed conflict, this is a very important issue, and one of the pillars my work here, as well as that of DIPAZ.

Andres Alba, member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bogotá, and technical secretary of DIPAZ,
 introducing the second day of the conference. Photo by Curtis.
The participants of the conference were asked to bring a symbol of their peace-building work. 
To start the conference they presented their symbols and placed them in the center of the room. 
Photo by Curtis.