So we're headed home. After a long period of discernment, Mamie, Nora and I will be moving to Louisville, Kentucky. I've accepted a position as the Coordinator of the Young Adult Volunteer Program with the Presbyterian Church (USA), a program that has been close to my heart and sense of God's call since I became a part of it 13 years ago. But that is not what this post is about. Because to start something new, you always have to leave something behind... Here is the letter we sent out to folks in Colombia just a few days ago:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^We are grateful for the opportunity to go back to the US and be close to dearly missed family and friends. We are excited for the opportunities of new and challenging work. But we are deeply saddened to leave Colombia, and a piece of our heart will always stay here. Thanks be to God for our wide, wide family. And pray for us as we leave home.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has a nice summary up on the shared ministry for peace between the PC(USA) and the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia. Read the article here:
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) established its first permanent mission in Latin America in Bogota. This culminated in the first Presbyterian Church, founded in Bogotá in 1856. We continue to share in ministry with our Colombian brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus Christ. Here are ways to learn more about our partners in Colombia, the PC(USA) response and the situation in the country: [Read more]
One of the experiences that Mamie and I always go back to as one of the most transformative and life-giving to each of us is our time as Young Adult Volunteers. Of course, we met through the program, so that doesn't hurt! Through one year of service and community living, either in the US or internationally, the YAV program connects young people's passion with the desperate needs of this world. Our time a YAVs has shaped our lives permanently, and for that we are truly grateful. So when I think of the one thing I really can stand behind recommending to a young person looking at who they want to be and how they want to spend their life, their passion, and their calling, I never hesitate to suggest looking at service with the Young Adult Volunteer Program. Are you interested? Do you know someone in your family or church or circle of friends who might crave this type of challenge? Do them a favor, and pass on this invitation. It is a year of service that offers a lifetime of fruit.
Do you want to spend a year (or more) serving in mission and putting your faith into action? Are you interested in a career in non-profit or humanitarian aid? Then apply to be a YAV! The PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer program still has open spots in their domestic sites. The extended due date is next month! May 25. Check it out! http://gamc.pcusa.org/
April 13-16 :: A Place to Call HomeBe a voice for peace and justice in Colombia by joining thousands of people of faith for the 7th Annual National Days of Action for Colombia. With more than five million people forced off their land, Colombia is home to the world's greatest displacement crisis. More and more people are driven from their homes every day. Help us flood Congress with our message of peace and justice for Colombia. During the National Days of Action for Colombia we will call on our government to pursue policies that protect small-scale farmers, Colombian human rights advocates, and communities at risk for displacement. For sustainable peace in Colombia, the U.S. must stop funding the Colombian military and pushing the unfair trade and failed drug policies. Here is the organizer packet with all the information to help plan some events. We'll be praying and acting here in Colombia. Why don't you join us?
*********Here is a video of the ecumenical event held here in Barranquilla two years ago to get you excited...
So, Happy New Year! More on where we have been on a different day, but first we wanted to be sure you saw this! A while back we wrote about the Mission Yearbook, and how great a resource it is. Well, today is the day to pray for Colombia! Here is the entry as it appears in the yearbook (though with a fancy color picture). More on how to order a yearbook for you or your congregation is at the bottom. Thanks for your prayers! Saturday, January 21 Colombia Studying Bonhoeffer, singing karaoke, worshiping together - these are just a few of the ways Presbyterian sisters and brothers from Colombia and the United States made manifest the partnership they have shared for the past 10 years. Through a retreat in the countryside of Medellin, leaders from both presbyteries have been able to study, worship, play, and envision a better future together. The Presbytery of Winnebago in Wisconsin and Uraba Presbytery in Colombia are always looking for new ways they can grow together. Their partnership is not one of "us and them'' but rather of "we and our.'' They have visited one another, prayed for one another, and shared the ways that they find God moving in their lives. In their look at challenges facing the Reformed tradition, Colombians found themselves looking at how to deepen their knowledge of the worldwide Reformed tradition. Meanwhile, Winnebagans were struck by the continuing reality of living one's faith under fire - literally - as their partners shared stories about the violence they have suffered and the ways they have found to proclaim God's love through it all. These deep and transformational conversations could not have happened without the history and trust this partnership has built over the past years. But with those roots, and the shared and life-giving faith in the God at work in all the world, this retreat bore the fruit of two peoples working together in pursuit of God's kingdom here on earth. — The Rev. Mamie Broadhurst and Rev. Richard Williams, PC(USA) mission co-workers, Baranquilla, Colombia
Let us join in prayer for:PC(USA) People in Mission Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC): Rev. Mamie Broadhurst and Rev. Richard Williams, pastoral accompaniers on human rights and displaced people * Rev. Alice Winters, professor of Bible, Reformed University of Colombia Partners/Ministries IPC: Rev. Javier Rodriguez Sanin, moderator, Rev. Diego Higuita, executive secretary * Reformed University of Colombia: Rev. Milciades Pua, rector * Reformed Synod: Elder Martha Raquel Nino Duran, moderator Presbytery Partnerships: Presbytery of Chicago, Presbytery of the Miami Valley, Presbytery of Tres Rios, and Presbytery of Winnebago with the IPC PC(USA) Agencies' Staff Herbert Beverly, OGA Elder Beneva C. Bibbs, GAMC Let us pray Gracious God, we pray that partnerships the world over might flourish. May the fruit of those ties show themselves in a safer, kinder, more just kingdom on earth. Amen.
Daily LectionaryMorning Psalms 56; 149 First Reading Genesis 12:9-13:1 Second Reading Hebrews 7:18-28 Gospel John 4:27-42 Evening Psalms 118; 111
Experience the 2012 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study for yourself: • The single copy price is only $14.95 plus shipping and handling. • Quantity pricing is available for as few as 10 copies. • Order through the Church Store, or call (800) 524-2612 and order item 978-157153-100-1.
Well, sort of. Richard and I are in an article in Presbyterians Today -- the award-winning, general-interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Published 10 times a year, it explores practical issues of faith and life, tells stories of Presbyterians who are living their faith and covers a wide range of church news and activities. Our story is part of one called "Launching Pad to Mission" which highlights some former Young Adult Volunteers and how our experience with that program helped lead us to long-term mission. As we have said before, the Young Adult Volunteer Program was critical in our lives. It changed our direction. It connected us to the church as never before. It opened the world to us and us to the world in ways we never expected. If you know a young woman or man who might be interested, please feel free to put them in touch with us or just send them to the website. The deadline for service in 2012 is January 20th, so there is still time! Okay you crazy kids, now go read even more about us. ;)
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a wonderful resource called the Mission Yearbook that it publishes each year. The Mission Yearbook has a page-a-day format with lectionary readings and 365 stories of mission all over the world in which Presbyterians are actively involved. I still remember receiving a card as a Young Adult Volunteer serving in Guatemala twelve years ago (twelve? ack!) from a group of people I did not know at a church I had never heard of. They noted that as part of their devotions, they followed the Mission Yearbook and had prayed for me (as I appeared on the Guatemala page) and they wished me well. As it happened, the prayer page for Guatemala appeared in August, and I had very recently returned home having finished my year of service. There was no way for that small group of people to known how deeply I needed prayer at that moment, but with all the transitions and "re-entry" shock I was experiencing, their card and prayers could not have been more welcome. I have remained deeply grateful. Well, it turns out that today is Colombia's day. Today is the day that everyone using the Mission Yearbook will learn a little bit about this country and have the chance to pray for leaders here and for us as well. And I could not be more grateful. Just in case you don't have one, we invite you to join in. And thanks, really.
[caption id="attachment_2135" align="alignright" width="258" caption="Banner from Colegio Nazareth for Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, 2011"][/caption] Sunday was the last day for the ayuno, or fast, that Mamie and I participated in last week. We joined people in the United States and Colombia for this fast - an ancient tradition in the Jewish and Christian traditions - as a sign of protest, lament, and hope. So how does a week of fasting bring about protest, lament, and hope? The Hebrew prophet Isaiah wrote of the type of fast that God chooses in a time of crisis for the Hebrew people, and it is a clear call to us today:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?Just preceding that passage, there are clear warnings about what type of sanctified religious displays are the opposite of God's desires, and a warning for all of us fasting this past week:
“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? (Isaiah 58)So do I feel like we loosed the bonds of injustice this past week? Undid the thongs of the yoke? Let the oppressed go free? Shared bread or clothed the naked? Or instead, did we serve our individual interests, continue in the oppression of others, or fail to be humble in this fast... If the measure of a fast is to have stopped the Colombia/US Free Trade agreement, or to have taken the reigns of the debate in Congress, then we certainly did not accomplish that. Yet, I also think those goals would fall more in line with the second text from above, the ways that we humans can misinterpret sacred actions like fasting. Instead, I pray and hope this fast had a different but deeper impact; I am changed for it, and changed for good. After a week of sunup to sundown fasting, I can say that it is very much an exercise of patience and deliberateness. For me there were no revelations, no in-breakings of the Spirit - only the constancy of my hunger. The dull ache of lack that I so often literally quench. But not this past week. This past week that hunger, that lack, was a holy symbol of God's hunger. God's hunger for justice and dignity for all of God's beloved creations. Fasting is not an exercise to force something outside to happen as much as it is to steel your resolve, to examine deeply your commitments, and to fuel the simmering fire for justice that is somewhere in all of us. Many of our readers joined us in fasting, and even more joined us in calling into the White House to voice opposition to the harmful elements of this agreement (and it is not too late for you to call...). I am hopeful about the political impact of this witness. It is important for people who know some of the deeper impacts of these trade agreements to raise their voice in opposition. And thanks be to God, there are times when the political leaders in the US listen to this kind of witness. Raising our voice about this one policy is just the beginning of working for the much broader transformation of our political order, towards a world where the dignity and value of all of God's people, and creation, is the common goal. But in the end, I am also hopeful about a deeper change. A change deeper than the many give and takes that this trade agreement is going through. A change deeper than the hope promised by politicians. I am hopeful for a deeper change in me, and in you. A change that we can truly join in the fast that God chooses. A change to align our whole lives in the work of God. Then we truly change this world.
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States is on the fast track for introduction to Congress. We have written about the Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) a few times (here and here), but if you want to know more and ask questions that we have not answered, here is your chance! On May 27th at 12:30 EDT there will be a webinar called: It Costs Too Much! The Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Presbyterians Speak Up (of course you do not have to be Presbyterian to join the call, or join the campaign....) and you can reserve your "seat" now by going to: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/183080795 The webinar will include • Ways for you to take action on behalf of our sisters and brothers in Colombia; • How Colombia’s human rights record requires delaying this agreement; • Why the Presbyterian Church of Colombia opposes the agreement in its present form; • Why the cost of this agreement is too high for small farmers and others; • How we as people of faith evaluate trade agreements. Sign up now to hear from Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Latin America Working Group; the Rev. Shannan Vance Ocampo, director of Colombia Programs for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which coordinates the Presbyterian Accompaniment Program on behalf of PC(USA) World Mission; and the Rev. Dr. Alexa Smith, Presbyterian Hunger Program.
You may be looking at this blog post title and thinking, "What the heck does that mean?" If so, I will sum up that the Presbyterian Church(USA) cast the determining vote yesterday in the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area to change the language in our constitution regarding ordination standards. The action replaces the current wording in The Book of Order with new language. The earlier provision, which was placed in the constitution following the 1996 Assembly, requires of church officers (Deacons, Elders, and Ministers of Word and Sacrament) “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.” The new wording, in its entirety, states: “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all the requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation. Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.” As a result of the vote, ordaining bodies - local church sessions for elders and deacons and presbyteries for ministers - will have more flexibility in determining individual candidates’ fitness for ordained office in the denomination. As well, persons in a same gender relationship can now be considered for ordination. It is a complicated issue that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has wrestled with for more than three decades, and the denomination is hardly of one mind about it. While some in the church are celebrating, others are grieving. And while we know that for some mission personnel in their contexts this decision will be particularly difficult and cause much questioning of their relationship with the PC(USA), we are glad as always to work with the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia who are largely unruffled (with a spectrum of great joy and excitement as well as concern here as in the United States). Still, we wanted to publish the response offered by the Executive Secretary of the IPC upon receiving a note from our folks in World Mission letting them know of the likely change to our polity. It is a measured response (as are all denominational responses, aren't they?), but one which simply wishes us well in this time of adjustment. "Let us move forward," he says. May it be so.
We send a warm greeting to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many thanks for sharing with us the changes that are coming within your church communities in the PCUSA. We know well that each day brings new challenges and the church must respond to them. Naturally, such changes mean that something is happening, and we cannot remain static in time. Obviously those changes come in different forms. We hope and we pray that such changes respond to the needs of the community and that they not be terribly traumatic for those who do not share the desire for them.
From Colombia, we pray that God might illumine the path of the community of faith around the world through the Holy Spirit and we pray especially for our sister church the Presbyterian Church (USA); for her pastors, leaders and members in their various ministries. We know that these internal matters do not affect in any way the excellent relationship that has been cultivated between us for more than one and a half centuries. Let us move forward...
An embrace and blessings to you all,
Rev. Diego Higuita Arango Executive Secretary, Presbyterian Church of Colombia