Thursday, February 3, 2011

A new year, new job

When we started MCC we were well aware of some of the issues related to placement. People told us stories about mis-understood expectations, about vague job descriptions, and about the need to be flexible and responsive in our work here. We also learned this years ago in our early experiences in International Development classes, and we reminded ourselves of this phenomena as we entered into this work with a genuine commitment to support the work of the church, of MCC, and to let whatever skills we had reinforce and strengthen the programs that had already emerged from the grassroots here in Colombia. And we deeply respect and support MCC, recognizing that the practice of placing people in 56 different countries, and being responsive to local needs and desires is much more of an art than a science.

When I came, I thought I was going to be spending most of my time with the School for Peace program, which is an inter-organizational effort to provide a mid-level educational peace program for people in regions of Colombia where they may not otherwise have similar opportunities. I thought that my experience in Interpersonal mediation and conflict transformation might be able to contribute to this program in meaningful ways. As it turns out, the School for Peace is in more of an evaluating and re-visioning stage, and Aaron’s knowledge of Organizational Development and program evaluation were more needed at the time.

So, there was another program running at Justapaz that needed some assistance. This program was the Research and Political Advocacy Program that documented human rights abuses in Protestant and Evangelical Churches here in Colombia. This is a facinating and innovative program, and offers an opportunity for churches to accompany vitcims in ways that go beyond the spiritual and tangible, and includes a level of political advocacy. Each year they document cases, complete a recent theological and political analysis, and make recommendations in the document The Prophetic Call. It was an honor to work with my teammates on this project, looking into programs offered by Colombian churches for peacebuilding, learning more about the levels of victim accompaniment, and how to best do this, working on editing and translating the document, and visiting with regional church leaders who risk their lives to tell these stories and offer them in prayer to churches and advocates everywhere.

As the year drew to a close, another MCC Colombia position opened up. Our friend Shalom has decided to leave MCC and return to Canada to pursue her studies. Our country director thought I would be a good candidate for this position, and we started to converse about the details of another transition. Indeed, I thought it was a good fit too, and so I agreed to make the change.

While I am still working in the “Izquina Mennonita,” my new position is with the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church as a support worker for people living under threat. This church has a long history and reputation for their work on issues of social justice and peace. The congregants are very involved in a variety of outreach programs in this and area communities. One of these programs, sponsored by the Justice and Peace Committee of this church is a weekly gathering space called “Moment for Peace.” It is a time for anyone in the community to gather over the lunch hour for a short biblical reflection, prayers, and some kind of information and discussion about local and international social-political issues. After this, there is a food shared, informal sharing of stories and accompaniment, and groups related to living in difficult times. I have participated in this space many times as a community member, and I am happy to formalize my involvement and get to know some of the participants much better.

In addition to this space, I will be helping to interview and gather stories of participant experiences, most of whom have been displaced due to political violence and are possibly still in hiding or under threat. This community works in a variety of ways to help these families and individuals rebuild their life and find support within a church community.

So, onward I go in this new direction, with an open heart, a willingness to learn, and the hope that in some way my contributions will be welcomed in the lives of this church community.

1 comment:

  1. shine in this change, jen. it sounds meant for you. thanks for the photo, i had never seen that.