Ruth Noel and Chris Lieberman served in Colombia for a month (November 2015) as accompaniers with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC). Their first three reports gave vivid descriptions of the troubling situation in that country, and now their final report is filled with gratitude and hope. Thanks to Ruth and Chris and all those who have given of their time and resources to stand with the IPC.
Throughout our stay in Barranquilla we have worshipped with and visited social projects that Presbyterian churches in Colombia coordinate. This week we arrived in the squatter community of Por Fin (literal translation —finally) to a patio full of women and some children that initially looked like chaos. It soon became clear that instead this was like a beehive with each person taking on different tasks to ensure that the work gets done. This week the women were making Christmas cushions; the first one each makes will be given to the sponsors/godparents of their children.
Approximately 80 women come together each Tuesday to learn different crafts followed by Bible study. They are then able to take what they have learned to make items to sell to support their families. In addition to teaching the women manual skills the church also is teaching organizational skills, the importance of community, and the need to give thanks. The women have elected 10 from the community to serve as their leaders. Each of these is in regular contact with a subset of families, keeping track of needs as they arise and communicating these with the church when internal resources are insufficient.
For the church’s part, in addition to the commitment to be with the community twice a week (on Saturdays there is a children/youth program followed by a family worship service) it has formed a foundation. The foundation finds as many sponsors as possible who commit for one year to provide, as their resources allow, to give an outfit and gift for birthday and Christmas; to help with school supplies and uniform; and, if needed, medicines for one or more children. Each year the children who have sponsors rotate so as to not create internal jealousy and tension in the community.
Gracious and loving God, we give you thanks for all the people we have met in Colombia, for their warm hospitality, their faith, their openness to two foreigners amongst them and their honest sharing of themselves. May we in the United States follow their example of trusting enough in You, to be vulnerable, and to welcome strangers and those in need to our country, our communities, our houses of worship and our homes. To You be the glory. Amen.