A Letter from César Carhuachín, serving in Columbia
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Hello dear sisters and brothers, supporters of God´s mission in Colombia.
Greetings from Barranquilla, Colombia!
On Tuesday, August 7, the newly elected president of Colombia, Mr. Ivan Duque, assumed the position in Bogotá, D.F. In his first speech, he had a moderated tone and was not critical of his predecessor. The previous speaker that day, Ernesto Macías, who is president of the congress, presented a controversial speech questioning what President Santos was leaving to his successor. A concern among people who supported the signed peace agreement is how the implementation of this agreement is going to continue and how the government will protect human rights leaders. The PC(USA) Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson expressed these concerns in a letter to President Duque. You may read this letter here.
Duque will work very closely with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. As many of you already know, Uribe was the main opponent of the peace agreement. That is the main reason for many people’s concern regarding the peace agreement´s implementation. Although many people say things like, “Duque is going to be a puppet of Alvaro Uribe,” I hope that peace and work for peace will be present in the Duque administration. I invite you to join all people of faith in Colombia who hope that God continues working for peace in this new government.
On Saturday, August 4, I preached at the 87th anniversary of Third Presbyterian Church “La Cruz” (The Cross) of Barranquilla. This congregation was founded in 1931 by a youth group that shared about Jesus in the San Roque/Rebolo neighborhood. Among those in the Presbyterian youth group were leaders such as Efrain Castro, who died in 2013, and Juan De Los Rios, who died in 2016. They began to meet at a plot that the church later purchased: the church still meets there. Pastors who have served there include the Rev. Campo Elias Mayorga; Rev. Margarita Del Toro; Rev. Javier Zarate; Rev. Manuel Garcia; and Rev. William Murdok, a former PC(USA) mission co-worker. The congregation, which is located in the San Roque neighborhood and serves the Rebolo neighborhood, doesn’t have a pastor at this time, but the session is taking care of the pastoral duties and has named Ruling Elder Catalina Bernal as a pastoral assistant.
In the church’s history, growth has been the major challenge for the church because many people came to the church and then left for jobs and safety reasons. Currently, the major challenge is addressing the neighborhood’s safety, intra-family violence, drugs, delinquency, and poverty, and the lack of job and educational opportunities that result. An example of the neighborhood’s struggles is the fact that, in 2011, while a visiting group from Tres Rios Presbytery in Texas was gathering with one of the church’s children’s groups, they were robbed.
Third Presbyterian Church has been addressing these challenges by teaching how to deal with intra-familial violence; creating spaces to talk with children and parents about violence; and providing a formation class on peace values for children and parents. The church has also provided youth with scholarships to help them graduate from high school. In addition, in partnership with SENA (National Learning Service, a national agency that offers technical training at a very low cost), 30 women from the neighborhood were trained in arts and crafts. The church helped 22 young people enroll in SENA’s Payroll Settlement Program, which provides job training and job placement.
Currently, the church is proud of three particular children’s ministries. First, the CDI (Infant Development Center) is a partnership program between the church, the city and the national government’s Bienestar Familiar (Family Welfare). In this program, babies and children up to five years of age from poor families are fed and cared for. In another partnership with these two agencies, the church helped create three childcare facilities at three mothers’ homes. And, third, the “Semillero de paz. Shalom” (Seedbed of Peace. Shalom) serves children ages 6 to 13. They meet three times per week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m.) and have wonderful activities, such as exercises in ethical value formation, Bible lessons, music and sports. I invite you to pray for this congregation that is working very hard to maintain a faithful witness of the gospel of peace in a violent context.
I want to ask you for special prayers for me as I embark on my interpretation assignment from June 2019 to January 2020. I will be visiting presbyteries, congregations, mission committee meetings and groups of people to talk about God´s mission in Colombia. If you would like me to visit your presbytery, congregation, mission committee or church gathering, please let me know. I would love to share with you about how God is working in Colombia and how our church partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, and our ecumenical partner, the Reformed University, are responding to its current challenges.
I thank you for your faithful support of God’s mission in Colombia. Your financial and prayer support encourage me to continue serving here. If you haven’t yet had the chance to contribute to God’s mission in Colombia, I invite you to support it prayerfully and financially. Your support makes a difference in God’s ministry around the world.
I also invite you to check out my page at the World Mission site: pcusa.org/cesar-carhuachin. To contact me, email me at email@example.com.
Peace and grace!
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Tags: Barranquilla, children, crime, Duque, peace agreement, poverty, Rebolo, San Roque, SENA, Third Presbyterian Church, violence
Tags: César Carhuachín
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