Colombia Accompaniment Report: Simplicity’s Facade

Received April 25, 2014 from Uraba-based April accompaniers Lisa Heilman Lomauro and Paul Vogel. Written by Lisa in collaboration with Paul.

Child in Uraba, ColombiaPaul and I now have three Urabá area trips under our belts. Three equally different flavors with the same base of displacement, and faith. Here ‘extended family’ also includes the faith community, and people take that seriously. Church members are present in each other’s lives, as familial as hermanos y hermanas en Cristo (brothers and sisters in Christ) can be, and we hear the reference often. As neighbors, where the vast majority walk to get anywhere, paths and open doors easily meet. The common plastic chair gets moved or unstacked, and whatever the home’s juice or treat of the day is, gets spontaneously shared. Conversation intermixed with the quiet of just being together ebbs and flows. News is shared, spirits bolstered, and friendships nourished.

Life seems simpler here, and is on many levels, at least by the material standards we’ve come to measure life by so readily in the States. Without the luxury of many machines to do their work, people have little time (or resources) for more than a life of selfsustenance. At first glance a certain appeal for this lends itself as an alternative to our busy, overly-scheduled lives. One might even see a certain ‘charm’ in life’s simplicity here, as while driving through the picturesque countryside in an air-conditioned motorbus. At day’s end though, as many of us are preparing for bed, safety assumed, comfort assured, more people than not are wearily finishing their day’s fundamental chores and hoping for a decent night’s sleep.

Upon looking closer, simplicity is seen as not a choice of the advantaged, but a way of life determined by circumstance. In a place where even doing your best may only yield a difficult existence, life’s misfortunes can overtake the hard-working family’s earned chance to thrive.

Here’s where complexity dictates simplicity. When land ownership is not seen as equally legal, fundamental human rights don’t exist for all. Where legal human rights aren’t protected and justice unserved, people are not treated as equal, and treated as less than human. Such has been the existence of far too many people here in Colombia. Not only have they been forced off their land, often with violent consequences, but they are stripped of their livelihood as well. Becoming job and homeless, a life of minimal existence often remains the only option for these proud, displaced people. Hence the forced simplicity of the displaced person’s life.

Yes, faith here is a basic part of life to those we have met. Here it means more than their extended family of faith; it also means the survival of the soul. Where deep wounds lay unhealed, where loss and grief is still present, room for hate and vengeance could own a person, easily. But the gentle proud people we’ve met will have none of that scourge. They opt for the more difficult higher ground, centered in a faith tested beyond what most of us can understand. The love and appreciation they have for life and each other is a bond born only from selfless faith and dedication to their God. “Gloria a Dios” is a refrain used frequently and loudly in their worship, and the effect anchors them in a way only true faith can.