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Sarah Henken

Mission co-worker in Colombia

Serving as Accompanier for Peace Initiatives, Diaconal Service, and Sustainable Development with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and as the site coordinator for the Young Adult Volunteer program in Colombia

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Blog: Andean Journey

Sarah periodically visits the USA. Email her to learn her schedule and extend an invitation to visit your congregation or organization.

About Sarah Henken’s ministry

Sarah Henken has served as a mission co-worker since 2010. After six years serving as regional liaison for the Andean countries of South America (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela), in 2017 her ministry shifted to a key focus on peace initiatives with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (known as the IPC after its Spanish name). Sarah works in collaboration with the peace commission of the IPC as the church strives to help all Colombians build a new future and bring an end to over 50 years of armed conflict.

A lifelong peace advocate, Sarah helps develop educational materials and programs for the promotion of peace and reconciliation within churches and communities. She engages in diaconal ministry with groups of campesino farmers displaced by the violence as they seek new land to farm and strive to sustain their families. Sarah also coordinates the Young Adult Volunteers who serve alongside the IPC in a variety of ministries. Her home base is in Barranquilla, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and she visits churches and communities throughout the country.

Country context

Colombia is a beautiful country with a wealth of natural resources, biodiversity and cultural diversity. Historic inequalities concentrate ownership of land as well as access to political power and media outlets in the hands of the country’s small elite class. These inequalities gave rise to the armed conflict that Colombian society currently seeks to overcome.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) maintains a vibrant historic partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (IPC), which was founded in 1856. Today the IPC engages in ministries of evangelism, education, and diaconal service in three presbyteries across the country, extending from Bogotá and Medellín in the Andes mountains, to Barranquilla on the Caribbean coast, to the fertile Urabá valley in the northwest.

About Sarah Henken

Sarah’s journey of ministry in Latin America began when she served for a year in the PC(USA)’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program in Uruguay as a new college graduate in 2002. In 2004, she was invited to serve for one year as the interim YAV site coordinator in Argentina. “My years in Argentina and Uruguay with the YAV program started me on the road to fluency in both the Spanish language and Latin American cultures,” she says. “I view this as a gift from God, which I want to honor with my life and ministry.”

After leaving Argentina, Sarah completed a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and served for three years as coordinator of the PC(USA)’s ministry of accompaniment in Colombia. “Colombia changed my heart,” she says. “My experience with the Christian witness of the IPC became deeply entwined with my hopes and vision for ministry and shifted the course of my life from that point on.” As regional liaison, Sarah lived for three years in La Paz, Bolivia, before moving to her current home in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 2013.

Sarah’s experience in Latin America has taught her the value of sharing the journey of life with others. This is one of her favorite aspects of her current work, which allows her to share in the lives of displaced farmers, Colombian church members, Young Adult Volunteers, and visitors from the U.S. and other countries. “Accompaniment is an important model for the life of the church,” she says. “When we walk together, we are not divided into leaders and followers, helpers, and people in need. We walk together because it is not good for us to be alone. And by walking together, we learn what it means to be one community called to a common journey, following Christ.”

Sarah understands her current role as accompanier for peace initiatives, diaconal service, and sustainable development with the IPC as part of the church’s call to prophetic action. “The book of Isaiah is one place where we see the two key roles of the prophet: first, to denounce what is wrong, and second, to proclaim God’s vision for well-being and peace rooted in loving justice. As Reformed Christians, our emphasis on the sovereignty of God compels us to reject all powers and systems in this world that undermine God’s desired fullness of life for creation, and to offer our lives toward the realization of that vision of shalom.” Sarah believes that her effectiveness hinges on both the tasks she performs and the life she leads. “I am committed to modeling the pursuit of peace in my own life and relationships,” she says, “and I thrive on encouraging others to join me in seeking to be a faithful disciple of our Lord Jesus in responding to our communities and world as we strive to be, in word and deed, the one body of Christ.”

Sarah was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in First Presbyterian Church of Gardena. In 1997, she joined Shadow Hills Presbyterian in Sunland, California, and is now a teaching elder of San Fernando Presbytery, which ordained her to her call to mission service on September 12, 2010. In addition to an M.Div. degree from McCormick Theological Seminary, she holds a bachelor’s degree in music and Spanish literature from Occidental College in Los Angeles. She is accompanied by her partner, Harol Palacio, and daughter, Neyda Margaret.

Birthday:  February 3