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Better Together provides a space to share experiences with – and strategies for engaging – three critical global issues that PC(USA) global partners are challenging us to address together as the body of Christ.  These three issues are 1) addressing root causes of poverty, especially as it impacts women and children; 2) sharing the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ; and 3) working for reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own.  The purpose of Better Together is to feed a conversation to shape concrete action strategies at the October 2012 “Dallas II: Better Together” consultation and beyond. 

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August 20, 2012

The Mission Example of the Colombia Accompaniment Program

The following reflection comes from Sarah Henken, the Missions Connection regional liaison for the Andean region. Read more about her work here.

The first time I went to Colombia, I was afraid, but probably not in the way you’d expect. I had been trained as a short-term accompanier to go and serve as a nonviolent witness to the work of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (or IPC in its Spanish initials) and any intimidation or violence they might experience. I trusted the assurances of those who had already served: Our partners will not send you anywhere they think you might be in danger, but your presence will help keep them safer.

So I went that first time, paired with a seminary classmate, in May-June 2006. We walked, ate, and sat with members and friends of the IPC who deal with a daily reality of violence, death threats, poverty born of dislocation, and I never felt personally endangered. Even so, my “fear” was realized: Colombia grabbed hold of my heart and has yet to let go.

My experience with the IPC’s Christian witness radicalized my understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. The church leaders and communities I have been blessed to meet in Colombia demonstrate a frank recognition of the violence and tragedy that surrounds them, the uncertainty of life. But at the same time there is a defiant insistence that the Christian message is true: through Christ there is life before death, and resurrection hope. What a joy to step into that messy, beautiful truth with them!

The accompaniment program is one piece of the larger picture of how the PCUSA is working with the IPC to seek the kingdom of heaven and God’s righteousness. Here are some others:

The friends I have made in Colombia have taught me what it means to work, laugh, and pray hard, sometimes all at the same time. Those friendships have also pushed me into faith-based political advocacy with the U.S. government, something I’ve always found intimidating. The fruits of advocacy can be frustratingly slow-growing. Nonetheless it is a compelling call, as these pieces join together to create a fuller picture of mission partnership with the church in Colombia. Day by day we are renewed and are seeing signs of new life.

How about you?
How do you feel God’s call to work for reconciliation and peace?
What opportunities do you see for faith-based advocacy in your community or on behalf of a community to which you are connected?
How can the church kindle and nurture your energy and commitments to the work of peace?

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

"No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There's too much work to do." (Dorothy Day)

Questions and quotes are adapted from and inspired by Resurrection Living: Journeying with the Nonviolent Christ

More on the Colombia Accompaniment Program

Tags: accompaniment, cgi, colombia, dallas ii, mission, pcusa, peacemaking, presbyterian mission agency, relationship, world mission