Youth Dreams in Urabá, Colombia

The following Colombia Accompaniment report was received June 13, 2013 from Urabá-based accompaniers Alison Wood and Bemene Piaro.

This past weekend my partner and I (Alison) spent at a campamento juvenil, a retreat for youth in the Presbytery of Urabá. The theme of the retreat was “Construyendo Caminos” — “Building Roads (or Ways).” It focused on encouraging the youth to think about their role in the future of the church. Part of the retreat included a time for the attending youth groups to meet, to talk about what they want from their churches and how they can make those things happen. Breaking them out into groups, a pastor who works for the denomination nationally was blunt: “The old folks in the church will not be around forever, but y’all have lots of time ahead of you. You have to take responsibility, to think about where the church should go.” The youth broke up into smaller groups and worked on creating strategic plans for the future of their youth groups; later they elected five new members to the regional youth council. The weekend wasn’t all work – we also spent the morning playing on the beach with the youth. Bemene played fútbol (soccer), we shared new kinds of fruits, and the two of  us shared a boat ride with some youth. The water was warm and shallow, and we enjoyed playing splashing games with our new friends.

In our second week here in Colombia, we are learning more about the political and social realities of the places we visit. According to the local pastor, most of his members have no jobs and some have no housing; there is a general scarcity of resources. In spite of this, the church visits sick members of the community and tries to help with $5000 or $10000 pesos (roughly $3 or $6 US). On Sundays, church members bring food to collect into a basket, given to a family in need.

While situations can be difficult and dangerous for those caught in the middle of conflicts between armed groups, folks continue to live, laugh, and plan for the future.  One young man said that he dreams of going to university, to study business and hopefully one day have a business of his own that provides enough for him and his family.  When we asked what university he wants to go to, he told us “well, it all depends on the money.” He went on to describe which university is most affordable and how he might be able, if he works hard enough, to get a scholarship. “You have to work hard,” he said, “to create a new story.”

We ask your prayers for all the people here who are moving forward with their lives in the midst of conflict and uncertainty.