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 – Coordinadora 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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From Conflict to Communion

This last Saturday, August 26th, the “House of Reconciliation and Peace Education” of the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Medellin held a workshop to close its second module in its yearlong certificate program called “Conflict, Justice and Reconciliation”. The main theme of the workshop was about what has been the role of churches in confronting conflicts of the society in which they exist.

We focused on the experiences of the Lutheran Church in the struggle for independence in Namibia, the role of the recently arrived Lutheran Church after the Rwandan genocide, as well as the current role of the ELCA regarding immigration in the USA, though its initiatives such as AMMPARO and its Guardian Angels program, as well as local congregations’ involvement in the New Sanctuary Movement. All three of these examples were discussed as models for church involvement in their society’s conflicts.

The title of the workshop “From Conflict to Communion” is an exploration of the stages of overcoming conflict. The process is a pilgrimage. In the current reality of Colombia, regarding the Final Agreement between the Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), as well as the current negotiations between the Government and the ELN (National Liberation Army), there are great challenges to be confronted in implementation and overcoming. The role of churches will be crucial.


The closing act of the workshop was an activity discussing community strength, demonstrating that if somebody falls the community can hold them up. Photo by John Hernandez. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Economically Studying the Bible

This August, we started a process in the congregation Vida Nueva (New Life) Lutheran Church in Bogota, about economically studying the Bible. The community has expressed great interest in the theme, including last year when we held a workshop to look into Solidarity Economy: a grassroots and bottom-up method of creating the economy wanted for and by the community, grounded in principles of solidarity, mutualism, cooperation and equity.

It was after that workshop that the congregation began looking for ways to delve deeper and work on figuring out its opportunities and possibilities. For the next two months, every Sunday the congregation will be studying the economy from the Bible. We started the first study with a general defining of the term economy and an overview of economic themes found in the Bible, starting with the formative event of liberation from slavery in Egypt, the economy of manna in the desert, the jubilee laws of forgiving debts, redistributing land, releasing the captives, and more. In the weeks ahead, we will go deeper into these stories, and many others, looking at the opportunities for the congregation to involve itself locally in creating the economy according to those principles being identified in these studies.

Here I am going over the definition of 'economy'. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Freed to Lead - National Women's Retreat

Monday I came back to Bogota completely filled, renewed, and exhausted from the weekend I spent as a participant at the National Women's Retreat.

Group photo with everyone wearing our brand new Katalina Von Bora shirts (Martin Luther's wife) who was a very important woman in the history of the Reformation. There were also participants from Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and from the Southeastern Synod of Minnesota. Photo credit: Jorge Diaz, communications IELCO
128 women from all around Colombia came together to celebrate the anniversary of the 500 years since the Reformation, to renew relationships and to learn. The theme for the weekend was "Freed to Lead". The whole weekend was focused around the 4 questions: Freed through what?, Freed from what?, Freed by whom?, and Freed for what? The retreat included a time for the business of the women, where there were elections for the new leadership. We also worshiped, had devotions together (including a devotion led by our sisters from SE MN Synod - which they led in Spanish), laughed together, ate together, had a talent show, and even a craft project. Here a few of the many pictures I took.

Pastora Angelica leading the session "Freed from what?" and Pastor Consuelo (on the right) showing how we are enslaved and need to be set free. 

The newly elected council of the women (on the far left is also Pastor Consuelo who is the coordinator, her face is a little cut out). 

The women from Vida Nueva, the church where we attend in Bogota when we are not traveling. You will also notice a few men in the photo, the music team from Vida Nueva led all the music all weekend, these men are part of the music team. Photo credit: Jorge Diaz, Communications IELCO

This is Kathy Chatelaine, the Coordinator for Global Mission Relationships for the Southeastern Minnesota Synod and Pastor Stephanie Wood, also Southeastern MN synod. They came to participate and learn from and about the women of IELCO in true accompaniment spirit. It was a blessing to have them at the retreat.  This was a photo station for the talent show night. 
 
The sending blessings to all the participants was a few drops of perfume to always remember that we are called to service, and to remember the promise of Jesus to the woman who washed his feet with perfume - 'you will be remembered for your service'. It was a powerful closing worship service. 

One of the decorations showing our transformation as women. I can't thank the women who organized this and participated in this enough. What a blessing I feel to have participated. Thank you IELCO women - well done! 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Planting Trees and Reconciliation

The Lutheran congregation in the city of Bucaramanga, The Divine Redeemer, has been working on strengthening its relationship with the Sustainable Farm of Rehabilitation of Antipersonnel Land Mine Victims. They invited the Justice and Life project of IELCO to accompany them in this process. So far this year we have completed two workshops. The first one at the church building with members of the farm invited to participate, and the second workshop was done July 15th at the farm.
On the left is Pastor Sergio, beginning the day with a devotional about the churches 'ministry of reconciliation' with church members and members of the farm. Photo by Curtis Kline.
At the farm we talked about reconciliation and the protection of life and the work for peace. At the request of the farm, we then planted 30 trees. The trees were chosen by the members of the farm to help block out the sound and smell of a nearby sugar factory. The Justice and Life project has accompanied the church and the members of the farm in conversations about conflict resolution and peace-building in the day-to-day, as well as how the church can better accompany the farm.

Planting trees at the farm. Photo by Curtis Kline.
Apolinar Ramirez Ayala, member of the farm of rehabilitation. With the support of the farm he has graduated from high school and is studying diesel motor maintenance. Photo by Alexis Aubin (communications director for the campaign Colombia Contra Minas - Colombia Against Mines)
In September at the third workshop, also to be held at the farm, where we will monitor the growth of the trees, and plan the continuation of the accompaniment between the church and the farm.

Planting more trees. Photo by Curtis Kline.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mid-Year Evaluation Education

Every ministry within IELCO has a mid-year evaluation (in addition to the end of the year evaluation). The idea is to see how everyone and every project is progressing with their goals for the year. A few weeks ago Curtis wrote about the mid-year evaluation for Diakonia (if you missed the post, you can read about it here).

Last weekend the Education Ministry had their evaluation. The Education Ministry is made up of 4 1/2 projects: The Lutheran School of Theology (ELT), Christian Formation (which is paired with, but technically a separate project, Leadership and Formation), The Lutheran Schools (CELCO), and The Emmaus Road Foundation. This is the first time the Education Ministry has had their own evaluation, making it a very important step forward in the strengthening of the ministry as a whole, and not individual projects.

One activity we did, broken up into the people representing the different projects was to each make a tree. The roots of the tree were all the same - the pedagogy model, Lutheran identity, and structuring the ministry. The idea is that those are the "roots" where the work in each of these projects in based. The trunks of the trees were the results, the branches were products, the little branches were the difficulties, the fruits were the products, the flowers the things learned, and the leaves activities. As you can see from the photo below, these are busy projects!
A collage of the different trees made at the evaluation, in the upper left is from the CELCOs, bottom left is the Emmaus Road Foundation, and the right is the Christian Formation and Leadership and Formation (I participated in the Christian Formation group and think it was a great exercise and love how our tree turned out). 

Here is the group at the end of the day. In the front row, left to right: Alexandra (Foundation), Zulma, (Formation), Stella (Foundation). Back row, left to right: Pastor Maria Elena (CELCO, Paz de Ariporo), William (CELCO, Paz de Ariporo, Judith (Formation), Yesid (CELCO, El Cocuy), Belky (coordinator of the whole education ministry), Nubia (CELCO, Bogota), Elizabeth (leading the evaluation), me, Benjamin (blue shirt, CELCO, Sogamoso), Mauricio (orange, Formation), Bishop Atahualpa. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

By Faith and Grace, View from the Cross

Pastor John Hernández at the Mission Emmaus Lutheran Church in the city of Medellin, Colombia has been doing a lot to prepare for the celebration this year of the 500th year of the Reformation. One way he has been doing this is through a short weekly radio program discussing principles of Lutheran theology. These programs are called “By Faith and Grace”. This is the second episode I have translated here. The audio link (in Spanish) is also included.

https://soundcloud.com/john-hernandez-9/mirar-desde-la-cruz?in=john-hernandez-9/sets/por-gracia-y-fe

  View from the Cross, by Pastor John Hernández

“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross”. Philippians 2: 6-8

There is a great difference between God as we would like God to be and God as revealed to us. However, we have no other place to meet God but the place in which God has spoken clearly: Jesus Christ who is the Word.

Theses 19 and 20 of Luther’s Heidelberg disputation, introduced in 1518, read as follows: That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened. He deserves to be a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.

The idea raised by Luther in this debate is so important that it gave name to the theology of the Lutheran church: The Theology of the Cross. And what does it consist of? In that we should not try to know God from God’s majesty, power and glory. Whenever we do, we will end up with a mirage.

It is only possible to access God as God is revealed to us, that is, from the cross. From fragility, from humility, from approaching human experience in its condition of greatest need. That is why the theology of the cross avoids talking about God in a speculative way, of what we cannot understand and always refers us to the experience of Christ, Him, whom we can trust.

In thesis 21, Luther also said: A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

Learning to look from the cross means to discern God in the midst of pain and suffering and to understand that God’s will is to manifest God's-self, to transform the world. Let us be careful not to lose ourselves in the search for the idols of glory that delude us with power, prosperity and miracles. And let us acknowledge the God who comes to meet us and embrace us.

Let us prayLord: Help me to look with your eyes. I want to feel with your heart. I do not want to live anymore being insensitive. Amen

Here is the link to the audio

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Diakonia Mid-year Evaluation

Last week, the 27th and 28th of June, the national diaconal ministry of IELCO held a mid-year evaluation retreat where all the projects looked back on how the year has gone so far and what goals have been met, what improvements can be made, etc.

Here is the Diakonia team at the Playa Blanca (white beach) at the Tota Lake in Boyaca region of Colombia. During the retreat we also had some time together to relax and have fun. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez 
In all of the evaluations, the coordinators and other project professionals receive training in a specific area of expertise of one of their co-workers. In this evaluation it was the responsibility of the Justice and Life project to plan the training. This meant Sara Lara, the coordinator of the project, and me.  We put together a Human Rights-Based Approach to the project evaluation. This meant that all the various projects were evaluated from the point of view of how they are protecting and promoting human rights, and how they could be strengthened in order to better protect and promote human rights.

The principles of a Human Rights-Based Approach are: empowerment, non-discrimination, participation and accountability. These were the areas in which we evaluated the projects. How is the project empowering, for example, all of the participants of the project to take their own action?

The Diakonia team visiting one of the families of the EcoVida project, an environmental and food security project of IELCO. Photo by Pastor Sergio Talero.
We looked at, for example, the EcoVida project, an environmental and food security project which works with farmers in the Boyacá region of Colombia. The project also works to protect a water source, which feeds into the streams and rivers which the farmers all depend on. While the project has many connections to human rights, such as the right to food, and a clean environment, articulating the work of the project with a human rights approach would strengthen its role in empowering the families, making sure no one is left out, and holding to account those responsible for guaranteeing these rights.

The Diakonia team after lunch together. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

National Retreat for Christian Formation

Once every two years, all the Sunday School teachers and educators in IELCO get together for a retreat. Keeping with the celebration theme of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the theme this year was "A Reformation that Transforms Our Way of Thinking". The retreat, June 17-19, was a very full weekend. 

There was so much energy, learning, laughter and renewal that happened, all focusing on the Reformation ways we live our identity as Lutherans. Pictured above was one of the opening sessions led by Pastor Carlos Negron from Puerto Rico. He led all the musical parts. 


Pastor Angelica is leading the part 'Liberating Education', teaching the group what Luther had to say about education (a lot) and the importance of the way we teach. We also studied the 3 'solas' (Word Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone [sometimes Christ Alone is included, but for this retreat we did not have a separate study]). Each topic was led by a different member of the Christian Formation team, Pastor Angelica has been (and will continue to be) the pastoral adviser.


Sunday evening  puppets was led by Jose Arturo Vega from Peru. The group had a great time relaxing a bit after two intense days of workshops and learning. Pictured here, left to right: Cristina Pineros, Carlos Negron, Betty Castelblanco, Carolina Castellanos, Edilberto Chaparro, and Pilar Gonzalez. As you can see, everyone enjoyed making puppets and every puppet was very creative.

At the closing of the retreat Monday afternoon we had cake, again to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Pictured above are the certificates all the participants received, some gift bags for various activities, an umbrella with the Christian Formation logo, a folder of the material for the retreat, and a package of material for each congregation - which was brought from Mt Olive in Rochester, MN when they visited Colombia in March. 

Left to right, Zulma Ojeda, national coordinator of Christian Formation, Ana Maria Jara, came from the Peruvian Lutheran Church for the retreat, she is the Christian Formation coordinator in Peru, Pastor Carlos Negron who led the musical part from Puerto Rico, Jose Arturo Vega from Peru, and Obispo of IELCO, Pastor Atahualpa Hernandez. Photo by Jorge Diaz, communications of IELCO


Here is the team that made the whole thing happen! Christian Formation is made up by a regional coordinator from each of the four regions of IELCO. During the weekend there were also elections for the new coordinators. Above is the picture of the new team (and a few editions for the weekend). Left to right, Mauricio Chala, newly elected to be one of the coordinators in the central region, Pastor Atahualpa Hernandez, Pastor Angelica Bernate - pastoral adviser, Belky Hernandez, coordinator for eastern region, Sara Lara - coordinator of Human Rights (lead a session about the rights of children), Carolina Varon - coordinator for southern central region, Stella Gonzale - coordinator for nothern central region, Judith Leon - coordinator for plains (llanos) region, me, Zulma Ojeda - national coordinator, and Miguel Parada newly elected coordinator for the Boyaca region. Photo by Jorge Diaz.


And the whole group! A great weekend was had by all, friendships made, a lot of learning, and a renewed calling to teach! Photo by Jorge Diaz.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Workshop: Contributions to understanding the armed conflict in Colombia

The Emmaus Lutheran Church in the city of Medellin and its ministry of the “House of Reconciliation and Peace Education” has finished its first module of the certificate program “Conflict, Justice, and Reconciliation”. It has been a process of engaging in sometimes difficult conversations about issues related to peace and justice in Colombia. Every other Saturday, over 20 people (from the church as well as from other churches or other organizations) have been participating in the certificate program, as well as invited leaders from civil society, universities or government agencies to help explain and explore certain themes in the Colombian conflict and the peace-building process.
Logo for the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education, designed by Pastor John Hernández and Daniel Padierna.
To wrap up the first module of the program, I traveled to Medellin and we held an all-day workshop last Saturday the 17th of June. The workshop was titled “Contributions to understanding the armed conflict in Colombia”. We touched on topics such as the centrality of land ownership to the causes of the conflict and the role of the media in producing distrust and biases in the country. While difficult, these conversations are crucial to peace-building and reconciliation in the country.

Members of the certificate program, broken up into small groups to discuss what had been most challenging to them up to now during the certificate program. Photo by Curtis Kline. 
The next module will start at the beginning of July, and will be focused on conflict resolution. From the national to the local to the inter-personal levels, those participating in the certificate program will explore and strengthen their abilities to resolve conflicts in peaceful manners.

On the left, Ady and Maily, on the right, Oscar and Jorge, continuing to discuss the topics of the workshop during a break. Photo by Curtis Kline.