Presbyterian Church of Colombia
Natural and cultural wealth abounds in Colombia, home of Gabriel García Márquez and Shakira, emeralds, coffee, and myriad species of birds and animals. Colombia has also been plagued by conflict for generations, leaving 10% of the population internally displaced, turned into refugees in their own country. Peace talks are underway between the government and the FARC guerrilla group, and implementation of controversial free trade agreements has just begun.
In this compelling context, YAVs will gain a new perspective on what it means to be church through service with the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia or IPC (Presbyterian Church of Colombia), founded in 1856. They will live and work alongside the church, learning from and contributing to its holistic witness. The program aims to develop globally-minded leaders and cultivate awareness of the interconnections between church and society in the U.S. and Colombia.
The IPC has placements in each of its three presbyteries, with hubs in the cities of Bogotá
(Central Presbytery), Barranquilla (North Coast Presbytery), and Apartadó (Urabá Presbytery).
Placement opportunities include:
- Church-based micro-enterprise and agriculture
- Urban youth programs
- Advocacy and accompaniment with displaced communities
- Community-based peace initiatives
- Rural children’s programs
Volunteers will be placed with local host families that will “adopt” them for the year. Volunteers will take part in family life, including chores and celebrations.
INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY ASPECTS
Volunteers will engage in orientation together upon arrival in Colombia with the site coordinator and IPC leaders. They will serve in different places around the country but will come together for group reflection at appointed times throughout the year. Each volunteer will be connected with a local pastoral mentor and expected to participate in congregational life and community worship.
Education: College degree or equivalent experience
Language: Knowledge of Spanish is extremely helpful, but arrangements can be made for language study during service
Other: Openness to simple living, cultural humility, readiness to learn, and willingness to adjust personal expectations and preferences to respond appropriately to the needs of the community
On security concerns in Colombia:
You may have heard some scary things about Colombia, and drug trafficking and armed conflict are still problems in the country. However, the generalized violence that plagued the country over a decade ago has subsided, and the incidence of kidnapping has declined dramatically. There continue to be dangers and tensions that warrant our prayers, advocacy, and concern, but the threats now tend to be targeted and are not of the sort that typically harm outsiders (i.e. visitors from the USA).
Most importantly, our partners in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia take great care in providing for the safety of their sisters and brothers from the U.S. church. They have significant experience in doing so, because the partnership between our churches has been strengthened by frequent visits from partner presbyteries over the past fifteen years. Pairs of U.S. accompaniers have been a regular presence, each team coming for a month or two in country. The accompaniment program began almost ten years ago and today 100 individuals have come to Colombia through that Presbyterian witness to God’s peace.
Here in Colombia, as in all places, we trust in God’s constant love and presence. We take measures to be informed and savvy, rely on the wisdom and knowledge of our partners, and step forward in faith as God leads us.
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Today more than ever we have the challenge to know peoples of the world better. We are in a society that easily builds walls of prejudice against others. The opportunity to learn how to destroy these walls through the Young Adult Volunteer Program is fantastic and fare.