Colombia Accompaniment Report: The Church in Northern Colombia

Received February 12, 2014 from Barranquilla-based February accompaniers Nancy and Ted Collins (Ted writing).
   
Pastor AdelaidaIn the 20th century, many faithful and spirit-led Presbyterian missionaires developed a strong presence in the area through church and school buildings.  To this day, their work is continued through very strong and capable Colombian pastors and church members.  The flagship of this endeavor is the Colegio Americano which is the largest American School in the world and since 2007,  hosts a Presbyterian church on its campus.

We attended a small rural church our first Sunday in Colombia.  While waiting for the service to begin, I noticed a poster made of small squares on which members had written their dreams for the New Year.  Love, peace, and kindness were some of the thoughts expressed on this quilt of dreams.  The items listed were all things that I receive when I go to a Presbyterian Church.  A highlight of the service was serving communion to each other.  We lined up in pairs and each tore off a piece of bread, dipped it in the wine and placed it in our partner´s mouth. After the service, we walked with the woman pastor and several members to homes to serve communion to members who were unable to attend the service.  Very moving!

Our second church visit included a tour of the adjoining school campus, an uplifting service and a beautiful meal afterwards with the deacons. This group included two sharp young men, ages 13 and 11, the heart of the church. By the way, in each church we were given the opportunity to introduce ourselves and talk about the accompaniment program.

Our third church visit included attendance at their Thursday evening service and on the weekend, attendance at the men´s and women´s Bible study groups.  The woman pastor used Romans 12:2 referring to "We are what we think about."  She also called on us to ask, "What does God want of me?" and suggested that a child smiles around 50 times a day, whereas adults only smile 4-8 times a day.

The last church we visited is also headed by a strong woman pastor, though it was our privilege to hear a member of the Presbytery deliver the sermon on this day.  A wonderful sermon and lots of praise music, topped off with a church fund-raising meal in the patio, afterwards.

The church out on the street is alive here in Colombia.  A strong Deacons group works through the Presbytery to take the word out to the farmers and into the barrios.  One renowned deacon said to me, "We don´t talk much in our churches about how Jesus died for the poor."  This wonderful person engages every opportunity to preach and talk about justice and human rights.  He has been an incredible asset to us as we try to understand the situation in Colombia.
   
When we stayed several nights on the land on which displaced families are trying to make their homes, we heard from another powerful deacon about the peace and justice of God and about the concerns and difficulties of this group of 18 families who have been displaced 2 or 3 times.  These people are part of the estimated 5 million desplaced persons in Colombia.  Forced from their land and into the cities of Colombia.

Finally, in the newspaper, El Heraldo, of February 14, 2014, former Colombia president, Andres Pastrana, urged all presidential candidates in the upcoming election to understand the on-going negotiations in Havana, Cuba.  He states, "We have to put an end to the civil war."