Sunday, March 27, 2016

Celebrate!

Happy Easter! We celebrated the resurrection this morning in church, ate an Easter breakfast at church (tamales and hot chocolate), and came home. The city seems to be functioning like any other Sunday, there are no Easter egg hunts, no baskets, and no Easter dresses. However, it is still Easter. We still sang the Hallelujahs of a risen Lord, the altar was decorated with white linens and white flowers, and we were reminded of the Easter promises. Christ is risen indeed! 

Thank you for sticking with us through our Lenten photo challenge. We will go back to writing once a week or so. 

The altar of Vida Nueva in Bogota, decorated for Easter. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Waiting

The sunset over a very quiet day in Bogota. We are waiting the resurrection. 
View from Monseratte

Friday, March 25, 2016

Rejected

The focus of tonight's Good Friday worship was the text from James 2:14 "Faith without works is dead...". I have often struggled with James, but tonight I am seeing it a little different. From our faith, we have a responsibility, we are called. Tonight, as I ponder 'rejected', I think about Jesus' death on the cross, and our responsibility that comes from that. I would like to share the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns: We Are Called

1. Come! live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!
We are called to be light for the kingdom,
to live in the freedom of the city of God!

Refrain: We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.

2. Come! Open your heart!
Show your mercy to all those in fear!
We are called to be hope for the hopeless,
so all hatred and blindness will be no more!

3. Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great day when all will be one!
God will reign and we'll walk with each other as sisters
and brothers united in love!


A cross my mom gave me before coming to Colombia

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Need

As the Last Supper is celebrated tonight around the world, many different types of bread will be broken in many different families and communities. The Lord's Prayer teaches us to pray for our daily bread. As Luther interpreted this petition., bread meant the "needs of our body and life on earth". Food, water, health, shelter, community, education, etc. are all part of what we are praying for when we say "our daily bread". They are all things recognized today as basic human rights.
A neighborhood bakery is an important part of the culture here in Bogota. Based on what kind of breads are available we can tell from what region of Colombia the baker is from.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Delayed

Today is March 23, it is the date we have been counting down to for the last 6 months when officials from both the FARC and the Colombian government agreed a peace agreement would be signed (they have been working on this agreement since 2012). Today is March 23 and a peace agreement is not being signed. However, they are still working on the agreement, and making good progress. U.S. Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry earlier this week visited with those in the Peace Talks to assist and support the progress. There is not a new date set yet for the signing.

A timeline (Acts of Peace) on a wall in downtown Bogota. I am excited for the day when it says the peace agreements have been signed. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Steadfast

A new mural that went up recently at the National University of Pedagogy (teacher's university), around March 8, International Women's Day, an important reminder of the importance of the leadership of women for the peace process.

Mural at the University near our apartment (Don't commemorate a massacre by giving roses). Photo by Curtis.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Thanks

Like I wrote yesterday, we just started the training for a new group of leaders within the church. The closing activity was for everyone to write down the gifts they saw in the others in the group. Today, as I read over my paper of affirmations, I, again, give thanks for all the relationships here that we have, and the new relationships that we continue to form. What a huge blessing!  


The back side of my affirmations....I truly do feel affirmed from this. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Celebrate


We are celebrating a new group of lay leaders within IELCO. We completed the first retreat of the 4-part series for 2016. We are staring the year with 27 people in leadership training. It is very exciting the energy, the new ideas and dedication this new group of leaders brings.

New 'ProFILE' group of leaders at their first retreat of 2016. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reconciliation

Today, in the congregation "San Pablo" (St. Paul) in southern Bogota we had a workshop on conflict transformation and reconciliation.  A group of committed youth are hoping to develop a local peace-building project.

Pastor Nelson, Marian, Diana, Javier and Raimy (standing), writing the words that come to mind when they hear the word conflict. Photo by Curtis.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pause

Did you know that about 70% of the flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia? Colombia has an ideal climate for growing flowers.

Curtis is leading a workshop tomorrow on reconciliation, and I am co-leading a weekend retreat for leaders. Amid everything going on, we literally stopped to smell the flowers.

A flowering plant that we pass to and from on our way to the office. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Restore

Due to the:
  • recent violence and threats against political activists and human rights defenders in Colombia,
  • economic actions by the governmnet such as selling off public goods like energy, water and other public companies to foreign businesses, 
  • increasing the minimum wage by a barely noticeable amount, 
  • the non-completion of the agreement between the government and striking farmers of a few years ago,
  • amongst other things,
Public sector employees, unions, indigenous and afro-colombian groups, students, campesino (peasant farmer) associations, and other social movements have called into question the government's commitment to peace in Colombia. Today they started what is being called an indefinite national strike.

video
This is a quick video of noted politicians and activists (each have received threats from paramilitary groups) offering flowers to the police during the opening of the national strike. (Video from the Twitter account of Alirio Uribe Muñoz)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

People

The last two weeks in the Colombian society have been filled with hurt and loss. In these two weeks 29 political activists and human rights defenders have been killed. This has led many to remember the "Red Dance" and the failed peace talks in the 1980's. The situation strongly shows the long and arduous journey towards peace, even with the probable final peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) coming in the next weeks.

The logo Katie made for the Human Rights program of the Lutheran Church of Colombia. It says - Justice and Life: Human Rights: IELCO (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia).



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Remember

As we are looking ahead to the continuing work and accompaniment in Colombia, we are also remembering all that has happened over the past two years (almost). The Bishop's car was used to pick us up the night we first came to Bogota, Colombia. It carried us and all we had with us to our new and unknown home.

The Bishop's car in the garage of the IELCO office building. Photo by Curtis.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Path

This is the first time during Lent the picture we are using wasn't taken the same day. However, with today's word, it was too perfect of a picture not to use! In December we took a 5-day backpacking trip to the "Lost City". We took this trip while my parents and uncle were here to visit. It was a difficult, but stunning hike. 
Our path - it was very steep uphills and downhills. Curtis is in the white shirt, in front of him is my dad (can't really see him), in front oh him my uncle, and in front of him my mom. 



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Celebrate

Today we celebrate exciting news. It has been officially decided that we are going to have the opportunity with the ELCA to accompany the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO) for two more years. This summer we will complete our first two years, and after we finish our Home Assignment (June and July) and time with family, we will be coming back to Colombia. We are excited about the opportunity to continue in accompaniment in Colombia during these exciting and historic times.

Katie and me celebrating the good news in our living room.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Listen

Today we held a workshop in the congregation Castillo Fuerte (Mighty Fortress) in far north-east Bogota. The community is made up of many people that have been displaced from rural areas during the armed conflict of Colombia. The workshop was with children and was about the rights of the child. It was humbling to listen to the children making connections between the vague rights written down on paper in international agreements and the reality of their country.

Andres, who helped me facilitate the workshop with the children, listening to Sofia talk about her heroes. Photo by Curtis.

Friday, March 11, 2016

World

This weekend I am visiting the Lutheran school in Paz de Ariporo (a city in the Llanos region). Zulma and I lead a part of the classes during the morning. Our project was about the creation of the world, and I lead a craft project called the "days of creation".

Students working on the "days of creation". They also colored a cover sheet to make into this wheel showing each day of creation individually. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Surround

Today I was able to attend the Foro Regional Libertad Religiosa (Regional forum on Religious Freedom). It is encouraging to see the discussions around how the construction of peace is the responsibility of every sector of society, including the religious sector. The issue of religious freedom has played a role in the Colombian conflict, therefore is a necessary area of society to be addressed in constructing peace.


The sign for the Regional Forum on Religious Freedom, the Forum will be held in four other cities around the country with the objective of building  an inter-religious network to develop public policy, promote coexistence, and work towards national peace.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Silence

Libraries and bookstores have always been my go to places for silence and tranquility. While there are fewer to find here in Colombia, I always enjoy the opportunity to visit and spend some silent tranquil time inside. Or, as Jorge Louis Borges once wrote: "I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library."

The library at the IELCO office. Photo by Curtis.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Faithful

Today, I want to lift up Curtis and the work he is doing, not just in Colombia, but also for the ELCA. On Saturday, a devotion that Curtis wrote was sent out as part of the ELCA's '40 Days of Giving' Campaign. Curtis walks the walk. He lives his life faithfully according to his convictions and the way Jesus taught us to live. 

Curtis holding the '40 Days of Giving' calendar where the devotion is published (devotion copied below)

Proverbs 31:8-9
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Poverty is not some original state of nature in which all of humanity began and some groups have overcome due to their own hard work and ingenuity. Poverty is about lack of power. It is the lived-out reality of the consequences of specific decisions and policies – locally, regionally and globally. In this sense, it is no coincidence that those segments of humanity suffering from hunger, thirst, inadequate health care and more are the very same that hold no voice and are marginalized by those who make the decisions. How can we support ELCA World Hunger to be a wrench thrown into the cycle of voicelessness, deprivation, exclusion and insecurity that defines the lived experience of impoverishment?

"Speak out for those who cannot speak.” Will we allow our voice to drown out the cries of the poor and those in need or offer our voice to them as an instrument to defend their rights?

Curtis is a peace-building and human rights trainer in Colombia as part of the ELCA’s missionaries program.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Spirit

A "spirit" of calm and tranquility has come over the office today. A great relief after some tense weeks before the national extraordinary assembly over the weekend. This comes together with some long awaited and much needed rain in Colombia, giving a peaceful feeling.
Looking towards the misty mountains on the rainy yet peaceful day. Photo by Curtis.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Celebrate

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent, as has been the case with every Sunday, the word for today, again, is celebrate. This morning in worship was a true celebration. Vida Nueva (the church were we usually attend in Bogota) hosted the Assembly worship. It was a packed house! The new Executive Committee of the church, including the new bishop, were commissioned and installed in worship.
(Left to right) Outgoing Bishop, Pastor Gustavo Torres leading the commissioning. Incoming Bishop, Pastor Benjamin Ojeda. Vice-Bishop, Pastor Atahualpa Hernández. Secretary, Andrea Ayala. Treasurer, Antonio Lara. Parliamentarian, Alex Suarez. Member, Alba Averalo. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Endure

What a word for today. The IELCO held its extraordinary assembly today, electing a new bishop. The assembly elected the skilled and experienced Pastor Benjamin Ojeda (a former bishop, and retired pastor), who will now have to "endure" the tough job ahead of him. Please keep Pastor Benjamin and the new administration in your prayers during this time of transition.
From left to right: me (Curtis), Pastor Raquel Rodriquez, Director for Latín America and the Caribbean of the ELCA, Pastor Patricia Cuyatti from the Lutheran World Federation, Pastor Benjamin Ojeda (newly elected Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia) and Katie.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Help

The word for today is 'help'. Tomorrow begins the National Assembly for IELCO. The church will be having very important conversations about the leadership and future of the church. So today, we ask for help from all of you, please join us in prayer for IELCO, the leadership of the church, all the pastors, and the Holy Spirit to move in all speaking and voting at the assembly. Come, Holy Spirit, come!
The office has a weekly devotion, this morning Pastor Nelson lead the devotions, and brought everyone
one of these El Salvadoran crosses. The opening song we sang (text shown) "Another World is Possible". 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Found (Find)

Restaurants in Bogota, for lunch, are incredibly inexpensive. In Colombia, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. One of our best 'finds' for lunch is 14 Sillas, we often have our lunch here (and after a lunch so huge, a very small dinner). The restaurant is about 2 blocks from the office, so a very easy walk. A lunch, at a nicer restaurant like this, will run about $3 a person. 

The menu for lunch today: cream of vegetable soup, rice, choice of meat shredded pork with
vegetables, chicken or steak, mixed fruits and patacon (fried plantain) 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Power

With the recent drought in Colombia, the power (electricity) has been unreliable. Because our apartment building is a new building, the power has been extra unreliable. We have had to go to sleep some nights hoping that there will be power the next day.
Power lines outside of the IELCO offices. Photo by Curtis.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Witness

One of the ideas of the photo-a-day for Lent was to blog about our day to day life a little more. Well, the truth is, some days are just sitting in the office working, nothing overly exciting. When I saw today's word, witness, I was excited to share a project I have been working on. Sunday School lessons for Lent, written by and for Sunday School teachers within IELCO. I am working on the designing, they are being emailed out weekly for the teachers. I have one left, and that is Easter Sunday (hoping to get it done by the end of the day).

The Sunday School lessons starting with Ash Wednesday, it will finish with Easter Sunday.