How would you describe the mission of our partner in Colombia?
The Peace Commission of the Evangelical Council of Colombia works with pastors, lay leaders, Christian organizations and entire congregations from many different denominations to meet the needs of the communities they serve as they struggle in the midst of violent conflict. Colombia’s internal armed conflict has spanned over 50 years, and while the motivation behind the conflict is political and not religious, Protestant and evangelical churches (which comprise 10-15% of the population) have been heavily affected by the fighting. As churches seek to be beacons of hope and peace in the midst of the conflict they can turn to the Evangelical Council’s Peace Commission for support.
How do you fit into their mission?
I am currently coordinating the Prophetic Call Human Rights Documentation Program. This project of the Peace Commission documents the impact of the war on Protestant and evangelical churches. Through the Prophetic Call Documentation Project the Peace Commission can advocate on behalf of the church’s victims to the State and international governments, as well as provide spiritual, emotional, financial and legal support to the victims of the conflict.
What led you to engage in this calling?
I grew up in Latin America (the child of missionaries to Brazil), and have lived roughly half of my life in the U.S. and half in different countries in Latin America. From a young age I’ve been interested in the relationship between the United States and Latin America… and Colombia is one of those places where the links are so very important. Much of the relationship between Colombia and the U.S. has focused on drugs and guns… I think we can do a lot better than that. I think as church in the United States we are called to be so much more than that.
Is there a passage of scripture that carries special meaning in your daily work?
“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” Romans 5:20b (NRSV) Colombia is often associated with some of its negative traits, drugs and violence… but Colombia is a country full of beauty, full of grace. Romans 5:20b reminds me to open my eyes to the grace that abounds around me even when I’m in the midst of much suffering.
What are some of the challenges facing CEDECOL, the people of Colombia, and yourself?
Despite some limited improvements in security over the past several years, Colombia is still in an armed conflict that takes the lives of thousands of civilians each year. Colombia currently has the largest population of internally displaced persons in the world, estimated to be around five million. As churches live in the midst of these challenges and seek to minister to the needs of their communities they are often caught up in this violence. The work of the Peace Commission in documenting this suffering and advocating on behalf of the victims is particularly dangerous and challenging. Please pray for continued courage and steadfastness for all churches doing this brave work in Colombia.
What lesson have you learned working alongside CEDECOL that you would like to share with churches in the U.S.?
It goes back to Romans 5:20… in my personal paraphrase: where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. This is a powerful lesson that my Colombian partners, and Colombians in general, have taught me, and that is applicable everywhere. Churches in the U.S. also constantly face challenges and difficulties, and we can get into trouble when we focus only on the negative and forget to see the grace that abounds around us, no matter where we’re ministering, no matter what we’re facing.
Are there books that have shaped your understanding of your work in Colombia?
- A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, by Gustavo Gutierrez
- The Politics of Jesus, by John Howard Yoder
- Por Momentos Hacia Atrás… Por Momentos Hacia Adelante. Una Historia del Protestantismo en Colombia 1825-1945, by Pablo Moreno Palacios
- I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, by Rene Girard
Which movies have shaped your understanding of your work in Colombia?
- "La Pasión de Gabriel"
- "Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace"
- "Jesus of Montreal"
More from Michael
- Pray with Colombia on Sunday, December 17, 2017
- Greetings from Bogotá
- Pray for Colombia on Sunday, November 20, 2016
- Understanding Colombia’s Vote Against the Peace Accords and What Lies Ahead: Especially for churches working for peace
- Pray for Colombia on Sunday, December 6, 2015
- For Such A Time As This?