Monday, August 16, 2010

Settling in

I am starting to get set up in my new little place. Figuring out where to find things, where the bus stops are, where my garbage is supposed to go (thinking about my composting worms and how they too would probably like the fresh stuff I am eating here). I found a bookstore - danger! Tomorrow I start the three days orientation. I am excited, but starting to feel a bit nervous.

In May I had the opportunity to go to Colombia with a program called Youth United for Peace with the United Church of Canada. Over two weeks in May we visited a bunch of different communities and met with a variety of partners from different organizations. It has been a bit of a whirlwind since getting back - and I am still reflecting on these experiences in many ways, but have been asked to do some of that in print - so I thought I would share it here too.

The opportunity to travel, to me, is both a fantastic gift and responsibility. I have been blessed with so many different opportunities in my life. The visit to Colombia was challenging, inspiring and humbling. I met incredible people and activists and still feel truly grateful for their amazing hospitality.

It seems that one of the teachings in many paths of faith is that of loving our neighbours and extending hospitality, seeking justice in the work we do. The first place we went to in Colombia was Cartagena, in the north of the country, on the Caribbean Sea. We were welcomed by Obispo Juan Alberto and Yurani of the Methodist Church. They brought to the first part of this journey a gentle and strong presence, both supporting us as we tried to expand our understanding of a country at war - and challenged us in our journey forward in solidarity.

The first day that we were there we began to learn some of the history which has brought Colombia to it's present state, the ways congregations in Colombia are building peace for their communities. Creating a new pathway for Colombia to move forward. To begin this journey as Youth United for Peace we shared bread, wine and fruit. All seeking together yet separate. So many things have been done throughout history under the banner of God's will - yet people of faith from around the world are constructing a new practice of faith, returning to traditions of

Over the next days we met with community members and leaders - people who perhaps took risks to speak with us, facing the presence of police and military to share their stories and history, welcoming us with great hospitality. The people I met I continue to carry in my heart and prayers.

Following the area around Cartagena we arrived in Bogota, in the center of the country. There is so much incredible work happening there, we met with and saw some of the work of Lilia Solano and Justicia y Vida, CEPALC (Latin American Centre for Popular Communication), and the Ecumenical Network of Colombia. I think those will be reflections on their own for another day however.

Near the end of the time I was in Colombia, Jim (one of the Leaders on our journey) and I went to Arauca, which sits on the border between Colombia and Venezuela. It is a place of incredible complexity and easily the most armed place I have ever been. We were there through the invitation of Justicia y Vida to participate in an international forum "Liberemonos de la Guerra: Salida negociada al conflicto amrado". The forum was filled with so many incredible people, sharing their opinions, experiences and knowledge. We met a man named Martín who is yet another person who inspires me. There are such huge challenges in Arauca and yet he brings joy to his work.

As I do each time I go somewhere new - I met people who are doing work that is so needed, with kindness and passion. I met people who helped me to change, helped me to see and hear in new ways and carry with me new stories as we collectively work to construct peace in our homes and communities.

I had a friend once tell me that vocation can be defined as your great joy meeting the world's deep need. I struggle with this - where to find that path, how I will know when I am following the right one, but I feel that this new journey of study will help with that. A space to question, dream and scheme my way to contributing to a better world.

Peace to you

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