A Letter from Sarah Henken, serving in Colombia
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“How do we live the resurrection in the midst of so much chaos, such difficulty? And how shall we proclaim it to a people that weeps, that suffers, a people massacred, excluded?”
Pastor Martha Lugo’s sermon has been echoing in my heart since I heard her preach to the faithful gathered online at sunrise Easter morning. Her message connected the painful realities of the Colombian people today to the fear and confusion Jesus’ disciples experienced in the wake of the crucifixion. “The leader is gone, and just as we see in our communities when they have a great leader who is taken from them violently, their dreams are frustrated, illusions die, and all is left unfinished.” You can view Martha Lugo’s impactful sermon Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia’s Facebook Watch page by going to the following link: https://fb.watch/6rM0NS-TTc/.
Communities throughout Colombia can relate to the disciples’ experience of losing their beloved leader. In the four and a half years since historic peace accords were signed by the Colombian state and the FARC guerrilla group, more than 900 community leaders have been killed. That is a life extinguished every other day. These are people who have led efforts for human rights, land restitution, rural development, and voluntary coca crop substitution. Sadly, the Colombian government has done little to halt the killings beyond making occasional statements repudiating this trend.
For the Colombians who remain in the communities and organizations that these leaders worked with, I imagine it’s all too easy to identify with the fear the disciples felt after Jesus was killed. “Now, what do we do?” they may ask themselves. “We were part of this important movement seeking transformation, but can we keep it going without our leader? And what if they come after us next? Maybe we should just give up.”
Even after Jesus appears to the disciples multiple times, it seems they aren’t sure what to do. From what we read in John 21, evidently, Peter decides to return to the familiar and go fishing. This may not have been what the resurrected Christ had in mind when he said, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Nevertheless, Jesus simply goes to the seashore to meet them once more and offers them breakfast. Before he insistently calls on Peter to feed his sheep, Jesus first feeds Peter and the other disciples at the shore. Into fear and despair, Christ’s resurrection offers tangible healing and speaks an invitation to courage, hope, and persistence.
On Easter morning, I certainly needed to hear this message, and I imagine many others did as well. We live in a world where the odds seem stacked against the kind of flourishing Jesus came to offer. How many millions of people have seen their lives painfully touched by COVID-19 and its collateral effects? How many live subjugated by structural racism, white supremacy, colonialism? How many suffer while death-dealing systems privilege economic productivity over life itself, preferring profits to the wellbeing of human beings and the rest of the natural world? And in this hurting world, we are called to live with a tenacious hope and faith in God’s vision for creation.
Tenacity is a trait you may often see in Colombia. On April 28 of this year, a historic series of protests began around the country, which at this writing are still going, three months later. For decades, right-wing paramilitary groups effectively silenced most of the voices that would otherwise have been calling for justice and major political change in Colombia. But the peace accords between the Colombian government and the former FARC guerrilla group signed in 2016 began to open space for greater freedom of expression. Strategies of threats and suppression are no longer enough to intimidate those who critique and oppose the status quo. Even in the face of violent suppression by state forces, the protests continue. The people who long for peace have seen that they are, in fact, the majority, and they find power as they stand together. I’m proud to be here serving with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, which identifies with and aligns itself with those who put themselves on the line for peace.
Thank you for supporting me and others like me in living into solidarity with Christ’s church around the world. Pastor Martha declares, “If Jesus rose from the dead, our dreams can also be revived; if Jesus rose, our joy can also be revived; and if Jesus rose, we too shall rise.” Let us heed the call now to rise up once more and reshape a hurting world to better match the vision God has for life in fullness for all creation.
Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:
Dear partners in God’s mission,
I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.
God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.
How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.
We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.
In the light of hope,
Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
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Tags: April 28 protests, colombia, colonialism, community leaders killed, COVID-19, easter, farc, human rights, John 20:21, John 21, justice, land restitution, Matthew 25, resurrection, right-wing paramilitary groups, rural development, structural racism, tenacity, voluntary coca crop substitution, white supremacy
Tags: Sarah Henken
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