Clear and Present Danger: Day 10, post 12

By Ken Peters, pastor of Saanich Community Church (M.B.), near Victoria BC;               also on behalf of Gerald Hildebrand, Pastor of McIvor Avenue M.B. Church, Winnipeg,    and David Esau, pastor of Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship (MB) in Vancouver, BC

It is our last full day in Bogotá on the Colombia Learning Tour 2013; a country popularly described in Tom Clancy’s novel as a place of “Clear and Present Danger.”

marketA morning of debrief and strategic planning for our return to Canada will be followed by a few hours this afternoon in the City’s markets; a celebratory cap to an exhausting but exhilarating twelve days.

Twelve days is a fair amount of time to acquire a read on people and at this juncture of our journey, a fitting disclosure is appropriate.  The disclosure pertains to our sisters and brothers working in the MCC Colombia office, the Mennonite World Conference office and the network agencies personnel.

I speak confidently on behalf of the nine-person Canadian delegation that “our” MCC personnel, to a person, exhibit an exemplary demonstration of faithfulness to Jesus Christ IMG_9852and the Gospel in their professional responsibilities as well as their personal spirituality that has been infused into everything we have done on this trip.

We heard Colombian Church leaders comment repeatedly of MCC’s integral role in their church-planting, community building and leadership development efforts.

Being an Anabaptist follower of Jesus takes on accent and inflection in this environment.  I remember years ago living in Fresno for three years that that American experience heightened my awareness of what it meant to be Canadian.

For me this trip to Colombia has heightened my awareness of what it means to be an Anabaptist.

There are distinct characteristics of Anabaptism (I will not attempt to list them all here) that shine in this context.  Namely, there have been two that have surfaced for me:

  • a Christocentric orientation to life that refuses to separate theology/confession from one’s incarnational presence;
  • and second, an obstinate refusal, an inability to distance the authority of the Word of God from everyday decision-making in the face of state-sanctioned or state-ignored violence.

In my years of pastoral ministry within the Canadian MB family, including my time serving on the Board of Faith and Life, I came across those who freely offered criticism of MCC, its programs and personnel.  Accusations and complaints were volleyed at safe distance from real life interaction.  MCC has consistently turned the cheek and engaged critique with an open heart to act in concert with MB concerns.

In our life and work we often search out and stumble upon people and organizations that inspire us – we are drawn to admire and even more to emulate them.  In Colombia we found examples to model our own life after: to follow them as they follow Christ.

So I invite both MCC Canada and the Canadian Conference of MB Churches in Canada to consider an opportunity to pattern our institutional relationships after what we have observed in Colombia.  Christ remains the centre around which all relationships flow.  Let us move towards a level of cooperation and intimate synergy witnessed in Colombia.

Finding Gold in Colombia: day 1, post 2

By David Esau, Pastor of Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

I’ve only spent my first full day in Bogota and already I feel rich.

Not rich in the way many Canadian gold mining companies plundering Colombia’s resources feel when they strike gold.

I feel rich in the way my friend Pete felt rich when he went across the continent a few years ago to meet the family he never knew he had (Pete was adopted as an infant).  He discovered a family so warm and welcoming and rich in history and stories that he felt he had struck gold — relational gold.

Meeting members of my global Anabaptist family in Colombia today, face to face, was finding gold in a relational vein that has been untapped for far too long. The richness of their hospitality and the wealth of their stories have this unlikely prospector already more than overjoyed that he came.

pastors sharingLet me share with you a nugget.

It took place in a village of only 200-300 people with a church of 30 people. In the conflict over coca, the biggest losers are those caught in the middle with nothing to gain and everything to lose.

When an armed group showed up one afternoon the situation looked bad. When an opposing armed group showed up on the other side of the village two hours later it got ugly.

With the village and the church literally in the middle of a war zone the pastor agonized and prayed over what to do.

No one could have predicted what happened next. Call it moral imagination.

The pastor decided to turn up the volume on his prayers, pointing the loudspeaker in his church out the window at full volume, praying for everyone in the conflict. After two hours of praying at full volume the fighting stopped and the warring groups left.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted that outcome but God.

Want some great foreign investment advice??

Invest in spending time getting to know your global family of faith in Colombia and you’ll strike it rich — guaranteed!

Colombia Mennonite Brethren invite Canadian MBs to visit

Dear Mennonite Brethren sisters and brothers in Canada:

1_CésarGarcía_byBRBGreetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! And greetings from Mennonite World Conference offices in Bogotá Colombia where I, César Garcia, serve as General Secretary.

I write to you, leaders of our Mennonite Brethren church in Canada, with a special invitation to join me on a Mennonite Central Committee Canada Learning Tour to Colombia, my home country where my family and I now live after completing our seminary studies at the MB seminary in Fresno, California.

From March 4-15, 2013, we will walk with Colombian Mennonite Brethren church leaders, both in the capital city of Bogotá and in the province of Chocó. I am convinced that, hearing their stories of planting churches and sharing the gospel in contexts of poverty, injustice Tim_ColombiaLT_07_064 trimmed3and conflict, will inspire us to greater faithfulness to Jesus’ good news.

In Bogotá, we have a special invitation from MB Pastor David Bonilla and his wife Marina to visit them in a squatters’ slum they call home, where they have been church planting and sharing the good news of Jesus for the past eight years.

In the province of Chocó, we have a special invitation from MB Pastor Rutilio Rivas to come and hear about his congregations’ struggles to be faithful to Colombia - Pastor RutilioChrist’s gospel in a context of poverty and injustice due to massive foreign mining operations. He recently wrote, asking Christians in Canada to walk with them in discernment as they seek to respond with a gospel message to extortion, exploitation, and displacement by illegal armed groups.

Will you join me? Together we will all be inspired to greater faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ, César

October 27, 2012