Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Peace Messengers

From September 21 - 28, the Lutheran World Federation and member churches held the Peace Messengers Training in Jerusalem, Israel. Youth from all around the world came together to discuss peace-building from their various contexts. IELCO was able to send two young people to this training. Angelica Oquendo from the city of Medellin, member of the Emmaus Lutheran Church, as well as the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education was one of the two Colombians at the training. The Lutheran World Federation recently published this reflection from Angelica on their website:

"For Every Dream There is a Color"

Angelica at the Peace Messengers Training in Jerusalem. Photo from LWF website.
Peace is what allows us to believe that everything can be transformed.

Peace is built between two willing partners.

In this space, so fabulous, there were many who reached out for peace: peace that transforms and sets free, peace that does not oppress, but instead nurtures love, self-control, respect and tolerance.

The experience with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Peace Messengers was wonderful and I would like to thank LWF for this great gift.

When I was a child, standing in the streets near my house, I had to watch my friends carry in their arms one of their friends whose chest had been pierced by a bullet.

I had to witness the death of many, and see how children joined armed groups because they no longer had anything to eat.

When violence touches the doors of a home, of the neighbors, of the whole city, it becomes somewhat normal, and it is seen as a fact without much importance.

What is really dangerous is wen no one speaks out about violence, terrorism, state crimes, and abuse of human rights, and we do not contribute to changing the lives of others.

One day I had this feeling that God was working for the youth, and saying, "I do not want to see more young people die." I prayed to God and asked him how to save lives.

God brought the arts to my life, and since then theater has become the means of social transformation that I use to transform everything.

More education, more culture, more work for young people and more prospects for the future equal fewer deaths.

I deeply believe that when one starts working for the sake of others, God opens unique doors of change to the neighboring communities.

Nurse, actress, and theater teacher Angelica Oquendo Ramos uses active pedagogical approaches to teach youth about peace building in Colombia's second largest city, Medellin, where she is a member of the local congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO). In September, she joined young people from Christian and Muslim backgrounds around the world in a week-long LWF training on peace building skills and practice in Jerusalem. 

Link to LWF blog:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


This photo was taken by Mauricio Mendez in the IELCO office as we celebrated thanksgiving last week (no, it is not normally celebrated in Colombia). I usually teach English classes on Tuesdays, so last week we combined the classes and had a big pot-luck and all said what we are thankful for (in English) as well as a short Bible study on thankfulness. This is a great team to work with, and I am thankful for each of them. Also, there was not one thing of a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner: we had meatballs and chicken, pumpkin bread, tomato and cucumber salad, mini sandwiches,  cheese and guava paste, potato chips, plantain chips, avocado and coconut cookies. 

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! You, our readers, are on the list of people we are thankful for. Many blessings to you all as we start Advent. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Diploma and Celebration

Last Saturday, November 18th, we held the year’s final workshop at the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education, a ministry of the Emmaus Lutheran Church, in the city of Medellin. This workshop was the final gathering of a yearlong certificate process called “Conflict, Justice, and Reconciliation”, in which the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Medellin organized trainings on a number of issues regarding peace-building efforts in the city and in Colombia in general.

The workshop group after lunch. Photo by Pastor John Hernandez.
This was the first year of the House of Reconciliation and Peace Education and the certificate training course was the first project. We focused this final workshop on exploring the relationship between four main components of reconciliation which they have been focusing on in the certificate course: justice, truth, forgiveness, and love. We explored how these four can interact in order to strengthen peace-building initiatives, and how they relate to the current process of Colombia regarding transitional justice mechanisms, truth seeking processes which will hopefully lead to forgiveness, and how love holds it all together.

The personification of truth, justice, love and forgiveness in a group interview about peace-building in Colombia. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.
As we finished the workshop, 15 excited members of the House of Reconciliation received their diplomas. This left a lot of excitement for future plans of working towards implementing in practice all that they have been studying this year.

Everyone with their diplomas at the end of the day. Photo by a member of the House of Reconciliation.

Adi Martinez, member of the House of Reconciliation and student of Theology, after receiving her diploma. Photo by Pastor Jairo Suarez.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Commemorating the Reformation

Around the world, commemorations of the 500 years of the reformation have been occurring, remembering all the many changes that have happened due to the reformation which started in 1517. Here in Colombia, commemorations are happening as well. Sunday, October 22nd, at New Life (Vida Nueva) Lutheran Church in Bogota, a special worship service was held with a guest panel to discuss the history of the reformation, and its impacts on the IELCO today.  The women’s ministry of the church also held a ‘Dinner with Katarina’, a program to share the impacts women had on the reformation (but often not remembered in history books).

The women of Vida Nueva (New Life) sharing stories of specific women who made the reformation possible.
This last Sunday, October 29th, an ecumenical worship service was held with IELCO’s partners in DIPAZ (Inter-church Dialogue for Peace) at the dedication of the new Lutheran church-building in Caracoli, southern Bogota, a community of people mostly displaced from the Colombian conflict which IELCO has been accompanying for 20 years now. The focus of the worship service was on reconciliation, a central focus of DIPAZ, both ecumenically as well as in the current reality of Colombia’s peace process.

Pastor Jairo Suarez leading the worship service at Luz y Vida (Light and Life) in Caracoli, in the brand new temple.
From Left to Right: Sara Lara, coordinator of Justicia y Vida (Justice and Life project) of IELCO, Pastor Jairo Suarez of IELCO, Jenny Neme, director of Justapaz (Mennonite advocacy organization), Pator Nelson Celis of IELCO, and Curtis.

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 РCoordinadora 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.