We have spent the last week here in Colombia with our daughter Hannah. She works with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization committed to walking alongside people who are at risk of having violence done to them. CPT is committed to non-violent action. But more about that later.
We spent four days in Barichara, a Colombian resort town in the mountains. We did a church walk there. There were four churches that were all built in the 1700’s. The town has lots of steep hills so it took us all morning to walk to all of them. Another day we walked from Barichara to Guane. It was an eight kilometer journey on uneven cobblestones. It was mostly downhill, but you had to watch every step you took, so that you would not turn an ankle, or trip and fall. It was called “ Camino “ or the “Way”. It was an spiritual walk for pilgrims in the community to be in touch with God. When we arrived in Guane, there was a similar church built in the 1700’s at the end of the trek. The rhythm of the steps were meditative.
The final thing we did in the area was to go whitewater rafting. I was a little fearful, but I had a wonderful time. The water was low and the rapids were not too severe. We went in the water, and floated with the current. It was just us three and the guide in the boat.
Our daughter is fluent in Spanish, so she has been our ears and voice as we travel. We have exhausted her. At times it is like we are not in Colombia at all. It feels like we’re looking at it from outside ourselves. We have made ourselves dependent on her, and she been great interpreter for us.
Now we are in Barrancabermeja, where she lives and works. CPT is here to accompany people who are at risk. Farmers are threatened, and they worry that their small plots of land will be taken from them. CPT accompanies them to document their struggles against people in power. CPT volunteers have to travel long distances into rural areas to walk with these farming communities. There are more requests for their presence than they can respond to. They were invited by the Colombian Mennonite Church to come and do this work. They have a team of six volunteers doing this important work .
Yesterday, the team leader Pierre Shantz gave us a neighbourhood tour here in Barrancabermeja. It is a city of 300,000. The volunteers live here, and go out from this city. The city was wracked by violence during the decades long civil war. It had been a battleground the rebels and the government. There had been massacres and targeted killings for many years. For some time this neighbourhood where we have been staying was a flashpoint in the civil war. Though the peace treaty has been signed the violence continues. There are now neighbourhood drug killings today. There is a high unemployment rate, and so the young kids have nothing to do.
We return home in a few days. It has been great to see Hannah at home in this community. The team works well together. We have eaten with the team often, and shared in their laughter and conversation. Hannah loves her work, and is passionate to work with people who are oppressed and without a voice. It is her home. This realization comes with some sadness for me, but it is what she is called to do in her life and in this world. She is an amazing young woman, and we love her deeply.
Our eyes have been opened, but I am not quite sure what I am seeing. Continue to open my eyes Lord.