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Challenges in Times of Pandemic

A Letter from Cesar Carhuachin, serving in Colombia

August 2020

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Greetings to all my friends of God’s mission in Colombia.

The quarantine regulations here in Barranquilla for COVID-19 change often. Until last week I was allowed to go out of my home only one day per week. Beginning August 10, I’ll be allowed to leave the house every other day. By the second week of August, Colombia ranked 8th among countries with the highest number of COVID-19 positive cases. The city of Barranquilla, where the Reformed University are located, has 33,605 positive cases and 1,557 deaths.

The Colombian Department of Education has ordered that all university classes be taught online this semester that began on August 3. The pandemic has affected many families financially, so there are fewer students. Last semester 3,021 students were enrolled at the university. This semester only 1,688 students have enrolled. This shows how the pandemic is affecting our ecumenical partner. Please, pray for the Reformed University, so it can continue to make a difference in this part of the world.

The status of the Implementation of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian government and FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) is the same as it was before the pandemic. President Ivan Duque is not supporting its implementation. The Security Council Press Statement on Colombia-SC/14255 (July 16, 2020) of the United Nations expressed “serious concern regarding the continued threats, attacks and killings targeting community and social leaders, including women leaders and those from indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, as well as those targeting former FARC-EP members” in the middle of this pandemic. In the two-and-a- half years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, we have had more deaths than previously. I request your prayers for peace in Colombia because violence is unfortunately present and taking innocent people’s lives.

Our church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, celebrated its 164th Anniversary on August 9. We thank God for these 164 years of Presbyterian witness in Colombia. Our church partner is working hard to be a relevant church for the most vulnerable people in the middle of this pandemic. All of them are having online worship services and online meetings. Several congregations are providing non-perishable food to families in need. This is a vital ministry because, in Colombia, the informal employment rate in June was 46.2%. According to the governmental organization, the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), the national unemployment rate was 19.8%. In Barranquilla, 193,000 people had lost their jobs as of June of 2020. This pandemic is showing and uncovering the cruel reality of poverty. Every single day, in the morning, afternoon, and evening, from my window, I see people walking outside and selling things, such as fruit, brooms, and food, while others walk along the road with their children offering to sweep your driveway for some money. This is very sad. I personally support a group of young Venezuelan workers, who work near my apartment, by serving them lunch once a week. There is a lot of need, and we only address the hunger they suffer.

In my ministry as a mission co-worker, serving as a professor of Bible and Theology at the Reformed University, I am doing everything online (classes, tutorials, meetings, sermons, conferences, etc.). Before the pandemic, I was using Skype, Facebook, Zoom, and WhatsApp. Now, I have had to learn new online applications and platforms such as Teams, Note, Facebook Live, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. This quarantine situation has allowed me to develop new skills. The biggest challenge for me, when I was preparing my syllabus for the three courses I am teaching now (Systematic Theology 1 & 2, and Theology and Pandemic in the Christian Tradition), was to find the right online reading materials. The university does have access to many online materials, but not all are recommended as required reading for university-level courses. I thank God that I found all the materials I needed.

Another activity at which I have been working in these months is writing. I have written two chapters for two different books for the Reformed University. The first is “Violence in the Bible.” I wrote the second with my former student Rev. Zulema Garcia. It is entitled “The Venezuelan Migration into Barranquilla.” I have also written two articles for our Theological Journal, “Palabra y Vida.” They are entitled, “The History of the U.S. Immigration Policies: A Theological and Latino Perspective,” and “The State Ethics: A Critical View of the Ethics of T.B. Maston.” I relate all these themes to the Colombian and Latin American social and church situations. The purpose is to make a lasting contribution to the struggle to become a peaceful society, with inclusive and welcoming congregations and to train the pastors who work in their churches.

I would like to give you an update about my shoulders. I thank God that I am much better. I have done exercises every single day for several months, and this has helped me a lot. I feel that I have recovered 90% of my shoulder movement. And I will continue doing the exercises to keep them in good shape.

I want to thank you for your prayer and financial support to God’s mission in Colombia. If you or your congregation would like to support God’s mission in Colombia, please visit my PC(USA) World Mission site: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/rev-c-sar-carhuach-n/. Your financial contribution allows me to do my ministry in Colombia. If you want to contact me, email me at: cesar.carhuachin@pcusa.org.

Please, be safe in the Lord! Blessings and peace.


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