Today I dug out my 1996 journal from the box in my closet. I am re-reading the entries from my first year of service with the Pentecostal Church of Chile on behalf of Global Ministries. An entry from January during those first few days in Chile says: "In these moments of 'beginning again,' I ask you, Lord, to be with all those with whom I will walk. Prepare the way before our feet."
By the time you receive this letter, I will have said good-bye to Chile, the Pentecostal Church of Chile, and the Shalom Center. Leaving here will be very difficult, but as I remind my friends in Chile: “A missionary’s job is to. . . work herself out of a job.” The time has come for the new generation of young adults, many of whom I have known from when they were children in the national Sunday School program I helped to create, to take their dreams and what they have learned and lead the church and the Shalom Center into new challenges and opportunities.
Patricia Gómez participated as a teenager in the Hechos Theater group I formed when I first arrived in Chile. She also led the first "Creacción" club I organized to teach environmental care to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders at the Curicó Church. Patty is now directing and administering the multiple ministries of the Shalom Center. She has finished her training as a facilitator in the Roots in the Ruins: Hope in Trauma program along with nine other leaders in Chile. During the past year, Patty has coordinated the challenge course, the environmental education, and the staff training and development programs as well as directing camps and retreats. She has worked hard to build bridges between the local congregations of the Pentecostal Church of Chile and the Shalom Center. It has been thrilling to watch her grow into this new role with enthusiasm and dignity.
Pastor Francisco Cordova is one of the youngest pastors of the Pentecostal Church of Chile, but he is already well-known and respected for being level-headed, hard-working and committed to the ministry in the small town of Colbún. He also has a regular job with a company that maintains irrigation canals. During the last year, as a member of the Shalom Center board, he has taken over the construction and maintenance needs of the Shalom Center. I used to haul all the materials, oversee the builders, and do my fair share of hammering, sawing, cooking and clean up for the work crews. Now Pastor Francisco consults with me about the best way to care for the delicate ecosystem at the Shalom Center as well as how to design and build each cabin to best serve the people and the programs. He says he wants to learn as much as he can before I leave, and I am more than happy to share ideas and affirm that he knows a whole lot more about construction that I do! He is working on fulfilling the goals proposed in the new, 2015 strategic plan of the Shalom Center to provide safe, warm cabins and dining capabilities for up to fifty participants.
During 2014-2015, I worked with Juan Carlos Oñate, the president of the Shalom Center Board and the 30 member volunteer staff on evaluations, systematizations, and strategic planning. The Shalom Center is now 15 years old, and the original mission and vision statements as well as the general and specific objectives needed to be revised. It is amazing to look back and see how much of what we originally envisioned in the year 2000 has now come to be. Under Juan Carlos’s capable leadership, the Shalom Center will fulfill its new vision, mission, and institutional values:
The Shalom Center Vision: The Shalom Center of the Pentecostal Church of Chile will be a place to renew right relationships with God, self, others and nature.
The Shalom Center Mission: Create a safe space through learning for transformation to facilitate peace education, environmental education and spiritual development in an integral way and to strengthen the dignity and resilience of individuals and communities within the Pentecostal Church of Chile and society at national and international levels.
The Shalom Center Institutional Values:
Faith for the Shalom Center is to believe in God, in the best in people, and in restorative processes.
Dignity for the Shalom Center is the inherent value of each person as God's creation.
Safe space at the Shalom Center is the commitment to create, respect, and care for the community covenant.
Creativity at the Shalom Center is the expression of the breath of God in individuals and groups.
Transformation at the Shalom Center is the invitation to healing and holistic development in individuals, groups and systems.
It is now time to say “Shalom” and wish these young adults the very best of the Lord´s blessings as they fulfill their calling and ministry at the Shalom Center and with the Pentecostal Church of Chile. I ask you for your prayers as Pastor Angel Luis Rivera, the area executive for Latin America and the Caribbean at Global Ministries, and I discern where the Lord wants me to walk and what new ministry paths I am to follow. For now, we have agreed that my ministry will in some way continue to combine trauma healing and resilience development with conflict transformation, environmental education, and Christian education. From my 2005 journal:
"I think of process. My process. The Shalom Center’s process, the process of the people around me. It is like my search for the spring of water at the Shalom Center, trudging over the mountains, a needle in a haystack, the morning dew clinging on the branches and then flinging out to moisten my clothes. The branches and thorns block my way, the coligue (plant from the bamboo family) stalks interfere with every step, forcing me to bend over, pushing me down on my hands and knees. I crawl until I break though. And there it begins. The bubbling trickle leaks out from under giant arrayán (related to the myrtle) trees. It swells up from beneath a rock and meanders down the eroded rift making its way irresistibly to the sea. There the spring begins. I have traced its path to here; I know where it leaps over rotten trunks. I know where it sneaks underground. I know how it gets here. But where does it go? What journey does it take, what mountains does it cross, which valleys does it span to make it to the ocean? That I do not yet know. I am in the process. In looking back down my life, I can see where I have come from. With the knowledge of the past, God and I dream together of new travelers to be met, valleys to be crossed and heights to be reached."
Shalom to each of you on the path you walk and in the company you keep.
Elena Huegel serves with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.