Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Colombian Connections #1

Colombian Connections: “What it means to be home.”

This month, we want to reflect a bit on what it means to be “home.” We sold, stored, and/or packed all of our belongings in order to embark on this adventure. Many conversations took place surrounding what items in our house were essential and what items were not. Which stuffed animal, which little piece of art, which T-shirt, or lego set or book was the most important thing to bring? It was interesting to discover what each of us considered to be treasured enough to pack.

These last seven weeks have been a time of intense adjustment for us. New sounds, new smells, new faces have given us the feeling of being “foreign.” In many ways we felt like we were in a state of shock during our first few weeks here. We have not yet settled into a place where we feel like we are home. Each time we look at something that is familiar to us, we are reminded that this space we have filled in this gigantic city does not yet feel comfortable to us. How long will it take to feel like home? What kind of rituals will we need to create as a family in order to claim this space as our new home? What kind of connections will we need to make?

All this being said, one of the most dramatic issues going on in Colombia right now is displacement. More people are displaced in Colombia than any other country in the world except Sudan. More than fifty-two families arrive in Bogota per day because they have been displaced. More than 3 million have lost their homes. Sometimes this displacement is a result of people being scared. In some instances a family member or friend has been tortured or killed, and they fear that if they stay in their homes, they too will be targeted. Sometimes people have received specific threats for their lives. Sometimes the guerillas or paramilitary groups move in and take over farmland, or otherwise valuable land for their own purposes and force a family to leave. This family may have lived on their land for generations, maybe have fruit trees, farms, cattle, and other resources that have fed them and sustained them. Then they are asked to pack only what they can carry and leave their homes, probably forever.

We see these folks daily on the streets. Trying to beg or sell things to survive for the next day. Trying to give some semblance of normalcy for their children, in order to remind them they will be cared for, they will have food to eat in the morning. For them, what does it mean to be home? Will they ever feel that sense of familiarity, the comfort and security of being surrounded by those they love? Will they ever experience the rush of returning to a community, and a house filled with good memories?

Our reality is dramatically different from the “desplazados” in Colombia. And yet, we are deeply aware of a similar feeling of unfamiliarity, of fear, of shock, of searching for connections that will make us “feel like home.” And we are desperately trying to understand what hope there is for folks who have lost everything. No “comfort items” or the luxury of a care package. No collections of photos or stash of Dove chocolates for those times of stress and fear. No secure dwelling to tuck their children in at night. And we are humbled.

This month we have gratitude for: the willingness of our children to be flexible and to adapt to new tastes, new sounds, and new people in their lives; the security of a clean, friendly place to live; a cab driver who we can trust; an abundance of fresh fruit; warm showers; kind strangers; teachers who want to invest in our children; notes from friends and family; the beauty of the mountains and blue skies.

This month we ask for prayers/intentions/comfort for: millions of families who have been displaced, or have lost their homes because of violence; young children that live in constant fear for the lives of their loves ones; patience for our time of adjustment, relief from feelings of deep sadness, shock, and depression; for our ability to connect with others and make friends, despite language difficulties.

Something else you can do is...
• Find someone in you have met who is from another country and reach out a little. Extend a greeting, invite them for a meal, or offer a kind gesture of welcome, even if they have been there for awhile.
• The United States is considering a proposal to increase military bases in Colombia. Contact your legislator and express your disapproval of the proposed increases. For more information about this, read the recent MCC action alert from the MCC Washington Office at http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5764/t/5764/content.jsp?content_KEY=1507. Even thought the deadline for signatures regarding the initial conversation is already over, our understanding is that they have not reached consensus, and there will be further discussion.


  1. Wow. This is exactly how I felt when I first got here.

  2. Gosh, I remember talking with my co-teachers about their journeys of when they were living in their home countries (Chad and Colombia) and feeling extremely, EXTREMELY humbled, often leading me to tears at times. To hear what they experienced and to see how STRONG they are and their perspective on life, just amazes me.