Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Oh, Sweet Peace"

"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

Luke 1: 78-79
(thank you, Eric)

For more than five decades, Colombia has struggled with a horrific, violent, and complicated war. Trying to make sense of how these conflicts began, what "sides" exist, whom is aligned with whom, what are the various territories and interests, and thinking about how one can possibly turn things around is a staggering task.

This is a life of contradictions. I can have a lovely time taking my children to soccer practice, and sitting in the sunshine with other happy, friendly, Colombian families. Within an hour I am reading a news release about a newly found mass grave, not far from Bogota. There were as many bodies in this grave as half of the residents in my hometown of Bluffton. All the bodies were buried together, unmarked, in one giant gulp of the earth. Arguments about the inhabitants of this grave vary, with some believing that the deceased are fallen guerillas, while others demanding verification for lost family members, union leaders, and advocates from local communities.

On Wednesdays, I participate in the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church's "Moment for Peace." Community members, displaced people, and church leaders gather in the church for a brief devotion, speaker of some kind, soup, prayer, and conversation. This last week was about the challenge of Global Warming. We read Genesis, watched a video, and had a discussion about what the world would look like in the next seventy years, and how we have a responsibility to help create change. A large part of this discussion was about water. The man next to me, who was displaced by the war, trying to survive in this new city with his family, while being "watched" by paramilitary groups. He turned to me and said,

"Our main concern about water involves the contamination of our rivers with dead bodies. It seems that every time we try to use the water, we have to think about dismembered body parts and decomposition that can lead to illness."

This is a kind of contamination that had never occurred to me.

I recently read an article about a woman who volunteered to pull bodies from a bend in the Cauca River in order to help families with identification and appropriate burial. What a job. Yet, she did it day after day, knowing the importance of the recovery of the dead, and trying to help with the healing process that was so desperately needed.

So in my cozy, comfortable conjunto, I am haunted by these images, and I pray for the "way of peace" Luke refers to. This land desperately needs a sweet peace that goes way beyond the absence of death. Colombians need the sweet peace that will fill them with hope and understanding that there is a better way.

by the Wailin' Jennys

Oh sweet peace, never have you fallen
Never have you fallen upon this town
Oh sweet peace, never have you fallen
Never have you fallen upon this town

The black crows are loaded
With the call of things discarded
The ribboned shard of battle
And everything burned
Have they forgotten we live here
Do they think that we gave up
Lay down and grew over
Weeds at every turn

Oh sweet peace, never have you fallen
Never have you fallen upon this town
Oh sweet peace, never have you fallen
Never have you fallen upon this town

I will not rest
Until this place is full of sunlight
Or at least until the darkness
Is quiet for a while
And we will not wait
For that murder to come calling
The night will simply fall
And the morning will rise

Oh sweet peace, never have you fallen
Never have you fallen upon this town
Oh sweet peace, when will you come calling
When will you come calling upon this town


  1. jen, this is a very moving and beautiful post. you have revealed yet another gift in the way you have taken all this in, processed and expressed it through verse, story, and song.

  2. very, very moving...your ability to translate your experiences, Jen, is amazing

  3. Quite a post Jen. Unbelievable contrasts.