A Letter from Dennis Smith, serving as regional liaison for South America, based in Argentina
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The common theme running through the stories I share this month is to ask for your prayers in times of hardship …
Pray for Peace in Colombia
The Colombian Army officer looked at the surrounding peaks: “Over the years of conflict we lost three thousand troops in these hills. This was bitterly contested territory. I’ve seen more than my share of combat, and I’m grateful that the peace process has dramatically reduced army casualties.”
With Diego Higuita and Luis Fernando San Miguel of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC) and Antonio Lara, mayor of Dabeiba, Antioquia, I was visiting the Llano Grande demobilization center. We are in Urabá Presbytery, not too far from the Panama border. The center is, essentially, a small village made up of several hundred UN peacekeepers, Colombian Army troops and ex-FARC combatants.
As we spoke with representatives of each group, Rev. San Miguel proposed that the IPC could help organize a public, ecumenical prayer service here to promote reconciliation and peace. All sides expressed interest.
The army officer continued his story: “We came here a year ago, just days before the Oct. 2 referendum on the peace accords. The FARC combatants were encamped on that ridge. We set up camp here. Our orders were to begin the de-mobilization process as soon as the Yes vote came in. We would receive the weapons of the FARC combatants and then assure their safety. Our mission was to provide security for this community. Many of my troops had seen combat in these mountains. They had received weeks of special training for this mission and I was confident of their discipline. Then the Yes vote failed. But both the Army and FARC chose not to engage in hostilities. I’m thankful for that.”
A year ago, while these bitter enemies tensely anticipated the voting process, PC(USA) Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson II and IPC leaders were meeting with President Juan Manuel Santos at an ecumenical gathering in Bogotá in support of the peace process. (I stood next to J. Herbert as his interpreter). Despite the failure of the referendum, a modified peace accord was ratified by the Colombian congress on Nov. 24.
Now, a year later, all three groups at Llano Grande complain of only partial compliance with the peace accord. But the process continues. And folks at Llano Grande — including the IPC — are committed to seeing it through.
Please pray that God’s gracious Spirit will continue to grant wisdom, courage and patient commitment to all involved.
Pray for Reconciliation in Venezuela
The Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV) circulated a moving pastoral letter late in July asking that we walk with them in prayer during these difficult times:
All Venezuelans, as well as the international community, know that Venezuela is currently experiencing a difficult situation of conflict. We cannot deny the complex political, economic and social situation facing the country, affecting diverse sectors of the population, with no regard for race, class or political tendencies. In recent months, this polarization has become more radical and we are experiencing a wave of violence that threatens all Venezuelans, leaving in its path death, destruction, hate and more violence. Not even these circumstances have moved the parties in conflict to sincere dialog, or to more flexible positions. On the contrary, the situation has worsened and threatens to deteriorate even more. This is deeply worrying and calls us to analysis and action.
As the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV), with 120 years of presence in our country, and with a long trajectory of working for justice and peace, we will continue to bear witness to the Gospel by rejecting all violent actions, maintaining our firm conviction of standing with the poor, the powerless, those that suffer injustice, the weak and defenseless. We will continue to proclaim the message of peace and reconciliation so desperately needed by our nation.
Meanwhile, we call on our sisters and brothers throughout the world to be in constant prayer for Venezuela, to keep us present in your prayers so that the Lord sustains our actions as a church, and that with one common purpose we can come together and implore that the God of Life grant us the peace we need, built upon dialog and justice.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
On behalf of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela, in the Hope of God’s Reign,
Rev. Zulema García de Rojas, Moderator
Elder Julio César González, Executive Secretary
As we deepen our historic partnership with the IPC, we are building the Venezuela Mission Network of persons, churches and presbyteries that feel led to walk with our Venezuelan sisters and brothers during these difficult times. We meet monthly via Skype to share testimonies and prayer requests and to discuss how US Presbyterians can build mission partnerships with the IPV. Please join us! Let me know if God is calling you to be part of this exciting community!
Pray for Health for Beloved Colleagues
It was late 1974 or early 1975 when I met Gonzalo Berríos and Ivonne Ferreira. He was a Chilean Presbyterian, she an Uruguayan Methodist. They had met at seminary in Buenos Aires, fell in love and married. After seminary Ivonne accompanied Gonzalo to begin ordained ministry together in Chile.
One of their passions was to help train a new generation of Chilean Presbyterian pastors. When we met in Guatemala, they were participating in a workshop on Theological Education by Extension (TEE) at the Presbyterian seminary in Retalhuleu. I was a volunteer working with the National Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Guatemala (IENPG). My Spanish was more than limited, but we connected somehow.
When we moved to South America in 2011, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Chile (IEPCh) was one of the PCUSA ecumenical partners on my beat. When we first ran into each other at a Synod meeting it took a few minutes for us to remember where we had met. As we unpacked memories, I learned that Gonzalo had continued to teach while Ivonne was Executive Secretary of their presbytery and pastored a local congregation.
On my most recent trip to Chile in July, Gonzalo was recovering from a stroke, yet still active. As we shared together in a pastors’ retreat I looked around the room and knew how many of the newer pastors Gonzalo had taught and mentored.
In late August, I received word that Gonzalo had suffered another stroke. Please pray for him, for Ivonne and for the church in Chile as they transition to a new generation of leadership. I have been deeply enriched by Gonzalo and Ivonne’s friendship. I thank God that, after so many years apart, we have been able to celebrate together God’s faithfulness.
Don’t forget that Maribel and I will be in the US on Interpretation Assignment from Oct. 10, 2017 through Feb. 14, 2018. We have just a couple of free dates when we could visit you. Let us know soon if we can share with your church how God is using Presbyterian World Mission in South America.
Thank you for being part of our journey of faith. Through your prayers, your friendship and your financial support you walk with us as part of God’s mission.
Under the Mercy,
Dennis & Maribel Smith
Please read this important message from Jose Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear Friend of Presbyterian Mission,
What a joy to send this letter! As Presbyterian World Mission’s new director, I thank God for your faithful support of our mission co-workers. The enclosed newsletter celebrates the work you made possible by your prayers, engagement, and generous financial gifts. We can’t thank you enough.
After I began in April, I met with mission co-workers and global partners and was blessed to see firsthand the mighty ways God is working through them! Our global partners are asking us to help them move forward with life-changing ministries. Because of your support, we can say “yes” to these creative and exciting initiatives.
I write to invite you to make an even deeper commitment to this work. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? We need your gifts to end the year strong. With your help, we filled two new mission co-worker positions and plan to recruit for others. The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer the call to serve.
Second, would you ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s mission budget for 2018 and beyond? Our mission co-workers serve three-year or four-year terms. Your multi-year commitment will encourage them greatly.
Our mission co-workers are funded entirely from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours. Now more than ever, we need your financial support.
In faith, our mission co-workers accepted a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission sent them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts?
Jose Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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