As one of the new international sites for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, Colombia is poised to continue its legacy of accompaniment and holistic ministry.
“It follows in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia’s (Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia, or IPC) tradition of hosting mission workers and hosting accompaniers,” said the Rev. Richard Williams, coordinator of the YAV program.
For the past several years, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the IPC have hosted an accompaniment program through which U.S. Presbyterians visit and live with Colombian hosts for several months, worshiping, working and learning alongside them.
That model of accompaniment and the idea of a “ministry of presence” is one of the goals for the new YAV site, Williams said. Another goal, shared by the YAV program overall, is to train young people for future ministry or service.
“Our partners are great examples of how their lives are transformed through faith and following God’s call,” said Williams, who along with his wife, the Rev. Mamie Broadhurst, served a three-year term as a mission co-worker in Colombia.
The IPC strongly values young adult leadership and stresses the importance of appointing young adults to serve on councils and in worship. The denomination also values the input of women and internally displaced people, who make up a large percentage of the church. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, more than 4.7 million Colombians are internally displaced because of decades of violence.
“Their church in a lot of ways is made up of those people,” Williams said. “It’s not ‘those people over there.’”
While the exact location of YAV sites in Colombia is still being determined, leaders hope to have volunteers situated in each of the IPC’s three presbyteries. Because they’ll likely be spread out across the country, the YAVs will also have opportunities for group retreats to allow them to check in and form a community.
The YAVs will work with ministries that align with World Mission’s three critical initiatives — addressing the root causes of poverty, engaging in reconciliation amid cultures of violence and evangelizing. This could happen through the IPC’s programs or through its work with partner organizations in the areas of victims groups, vocational training or education, Williams said.