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A Letter from César Carhuachín, serving in Colombia

July 2018

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Greetings from Barranquilla, Colombia, South America!

Our ecumenical partner, the Reformed University of Colombia, has finished the first semester of 2018 (semesters begin in February here). I have a couple of amazing new students, Raphael Marenco and Yenny Buenaventura, who have a little boy called Daniel. They are members of Comunidad Del Camino Presbyterian Church, where I worship most of the time. Raphael is an engineer, and Yenny is an architect and interior designer. Yenny is also involved in children’s ministry in their congregation. Both are alumni of the American School of Barranquilla (an institution of the Presbytery of the Coast, which offers preschool, elementary, middle and high school education), where they met.

Because both of them have full-time jobs, Raphael and Yenny are working hard to balance all of their responsibilities. They say that maintaining balance is their biggest challenge, as they are both taking evening classes, have full-time jobs and are raising a small child. Yenny is so grateful for her mom, who is helping them by taking care of Daniel when they are at school. Yenny says that she enjoys “this time of … deep study of the Bible in a critical way [that allows them] to apply it to the congregation.” Raphael says that “he loves the approach of the theological studies, the combination of the Bible and other disciplines such as history, archaeology, philosophy, sociology and others.” Yenny wants to be “a pastor of an inclusive congregation,” where she will lead people to love all people, especially children, and will teach the Word of God. Raphael says that he wants to support the church as a part of some ministry and teach the Word of God in a way that “makes sense in a patriarchal context of violence,” as is the case of Colombia. I invite you to pray that Raphael and Yenny will be able to balance their responsibilities in order to continue their theological studies at the Reformed University.

The Comunidad Del Camino Presbyterian Church of Barranquilla (where both the Marenco family and I worship) began in 2003 as a Bible study group in Reformed University facilities. This was an initiative of the Presbytery of the Coast, and in its beginning it was comprised of students of the university and the American School, teachers and others affiliated with the schools. At that time, Rev. Adriano Portillo and Rev. Adelaida Jimenez were the school´s chaplains. After three years of being a Bible study group, it finally became a congregation in 2006, and Rev. Portillo served as its first pastor. Today, this congregation has about 120 members and continues to hold its gatherings in the chapel of the Reformed University and the American School. Members include middle- and lower-class families, and membership is intergenerational, with children, youth, adults and seniors. The session is inclusive, with both men and women ruling elders. Rev. Portillo continues as the pastor and in addition serves as the American School principal. The worship services show a clear Reformed tradition, with a Latino American style of worship, such as applause and movements during the songs. The sermons are always connected with the city’s and nation’s current issues.

About five years ago, this church responded to the call of two NGOs for help with biblical and spiritual support for their programs with children, youth and elderly people. These two NGOs, Mis años felices and Alfa y Omega, are located in Barranquilla in the Me quejo and El pueblo neighborhoods. These two areas are impoverished, crime-ridden areas, and the NGOs are responding to a need for activities for children and youth to keep them away from drugs and gangs. Because the needs of elderly people in these areas are often not addressed, the NGOs are serving this vulnerable population as well. Please keep Comunidad Del Camino Presbyterian Church and its ministries in your prayers.

On June 17, Colombians elected a new president. Ivan Duque, the Centro Democrático party candidate (also the party of Alvaro Uribe, who served as Colombian president 2002-2010). The Colombia Humana candidate, Gustavo Petro, lost this election. Petro was a former guerrilla of M-19 (the April 19 Movement), a national senator and former mayor of Bogotá, Distrito Capital. Since the Centro Democrático party (and former President Alvaro Uribe) didn´t support the Peace Agreement that had been signed more than a year ago between the Colombia government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), people feel unsure about the future of the full implementation of the Peace Agreement. 

Of course, this was a groundbreaking presidential election, as for the first time in the political history of Colombia there was a candidate (Gustavo Petro) from outside of traditional political parties with a serious chance of winning the election. Although Petro lost the election, many people say, “Now we know that there are a bunch of people who want a different government. There is a hope in the future for a government with justice for the poor and the underprivileged people.” As a people of faith, our church partner prayed for this election, encouraged people to vote and hoped that Colombia might have change with a government for which social justice and peace would be the main concern. I invite you to read a letter written by Rev. Milciades Púa before the election.

Although the results of the presidential election were not what we expected, as a people of faith, we trust that God is in control of Colombia´s future and peace in this country. We pray that the work of our partner, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, continues to focus on peacemaking, empowering displaced communities and sharing the gospel with the poor.

I want to thank you all for your faithful support of my ministry and of God’s mission in Colombia. Your financial support and prayer encourage me to continue serving here with love and dedication. If you or your congregation haven’t yet had the chance to contribute to God’s mission in Colombia, I invite you to pray and to give. Your support makes a difference in ministry around the world.

I also invite you to check out my World Mission webpage. If you want to contact me, email me at


Peace and grace!

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