A Letter from Sarah Henken, serving in Colombia
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I pray this message finds you well. As I write, Advent is nearly upon us. This most uncommon year is coming to a close.
Advent has always been a special season in my life, a time when purpose is renewed, and love takes center stage. But this year there are so many things to lament. You probably have a list of your own, here are a few from mine:
• November 24, 2020 is the fourth anniversary of the day when Colombia’s peace accords were signed, and yet true peace remains an elusive hope. The government refuses to honor its commitments and obligations, and many powerful groups and individuals work to maintain their grip on power through violence and manipulations of justice. In these four years, around 1,000 community leaders for land rights and human rights have been killed, as have some 250 FARC ex-combatants who laid down their weapons through the peace accords.
• November 25, 2020 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and yet so many forms of violence continue to be employed against women. Calls to domestic violence hotlines have increased in countries around the world during the pandemic.
• Every day now, around the world, about 10,000 more families are added to the list of those whose holiday celebrations will be marked by the absence of a loved one lost due to COVID-19.
As we watch and wonder whether we will emerge from this pandemic season transformed for new life, or mired and entrenched in structures of injustice, I give thanks for the arrival of this liturgical season of Advent because it reminds me that God does not give up on us. Even to us, even now, God will come and meet us again. God comes wrapped in glorious, vulnerable, complicated humanity, inviting us to tenderness and empathy, to take time to prepare and to focus.
Remembering that God does not give up on us, I will find the strength and the love not to give up on the world that God loves so dearly. In this world where we so often focus on our own needs and desires and leave other people and the rest of creation as an afterthought, I will continue to show up where I can, and give thanks for the many friends and colleagues around me who bear witness to God’s love incarnate.
To name just one of those connections, I have been blessed this year to be part of an ecumenical team which has continued to engage in advocacy and prayer for peace in Colombia through online channels. We have organized online vigils and celebrations, exploring the many facets of what makes for true peace, including a commitment to anti-racism, a rejection of militarism, and an insistence on our shared humanity across borders. We’re planning for new opportunities to celebrate Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia in the new year. Please pray for Colombia’s peace process and know that I pray for you and your community, with thanksgiving for the opportunity to be companions on the journey.
In the midst of all that this year has brought, new life has been at the center of my attention—in fact, it often startles me as I feel it stirring and kicking inside my belly! My fiancé and I have our hopes set high, anticipating the birth of a daughter early in the new year, and we are delighted and filled with gratitude. My earliest sense of vocation was to motherhood, and while it’s certainly taken a more circuitous route for me to get here than I’d imagined in my youth, I know this is just the right time. Please keep me and my growing family in your prayers as we prepare for all of the changes, challenges, and joys that lie ahead.
Lately I find myself recalling the opening lyrics to “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón,” a great song by Argentine singer-songwriter Fito Páez, “Who said that all is lost? I’m here to offer my heart.” In this season of Advent, I imagine God singing these words to us. If we can summon the courage to keep offering our hearts—even if they are broken, afraid, or a little numb—then maybe we will find ourselves living in the world that God longs for us to share.
In hope, peace, love, and joy,
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Tags: “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón, ” Fito Páez, advent, advocacy, colombia, COVID-19, Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, Fourth anniversary of Colombia’s peace accords, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 24, November 25, pandemic, prayer for peace
Tags: Sarah Henken
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