Colombian Accompaniment Report: Discernment and Training

From October 2013 Accompaniment Orientation participant Lisa Heilman Lomauro

(Editor’s note: Training / Discernment for Colombia Accompaniment takes place twice per year.  The next two opportunities are March 13-17, 2014 and October 2014. Who do you know who may be interested? Please direct them to http://www.presbypeacefellowship.org/colombia/accompaniment and/or to colombia@presbypeacefellowship.org. Thanks!)

PPF Colombia Accompaniment TrainingThere's something intriguing about a foreign land, that calls to us for exploration, adventure, and a shared human experience with those who appear to be quite different from ourselves. And when news of their abuse connects with our internal scales of justice, those immediate differences are replaced with sameness and the realization of shared vulnerability. Frustration called to action with the right motives in mind, can create a movement that cannot be bought.

Such is the call of those to serve in Colombia, alongside our brothers and sisters there who are only trying to do what we do, and that's to live a life of dignity, self-sustenance, and building better futures. When that motivates a person of faith, amazing things can happen.

Multi-denominational people inspired into advocacy gather twice a year at the beautiful Stony Point facility in southern NY state for a long weekend of discernment and training. The Presbyterian's Colombian Accompaniment Program is for those seeking to determine if it is right for them. Accommodations and the sessions are run retreat-style, in a lovely historic home just off the Stony Point campus. The facilitators present a true picture of the history of the conflict in Colombia, current conditions, and of the people's resiliency and persistent hope for the future. One can't help but become impassioned for justice and resolution in the areas described.

If you are considering involvement in Colombia, really try to get to this long weekend if you can. The content covered creates an immersion into the issues beyond what we can do individually. The sessions are designed to educate, and individual discernment is encouraged as different aspects of involvement are covered. The richness of the information, the warm supportive encouragement of the facilitators, and the camaraderie formed from time together with like-passioned individuals helps identify within each of us our power to make a difference with our own reservoirs of gifts, skills and talents. There is no pressure, only discernment, as each of you will determine personally your possible fit and timing into the program.

What would a window on all this look like? Well, the house is warm and inviting. The furniture and beds are comfortable, and the kitchen recently renovated. One feels as both a guest and family member in an old home. Groups are self-established to share in the preparation and cleanup of meals. This family atmosphere further contributes to the openness of conversation and discernment. As we work our way through the material and documentaries, mutual support grows and Christ's model becomes the clear mode of operation for our Colombian church brothers and sisters, and all encountered there. Placement and timing are dependent of mutual schedules and language abilities. Individual meetings are the last part of the process, to privately cover individual's discernments and assessment. The entire time spent there is a refreshing example of the respectful inclusiveness in which we aim to live, when intentional. Whatever decisions you may make regarding the Colombian Accompaniment Program, you will come away from the weekend feeling enriched, blessed, and encouraged!